President Donald Trump issued an executive order that said for 90 days citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen were barred from entering the United States. Refugees from six of these countries would not be allowed to enter the United States for 120 days, while Syrian refugee admissions were suspended indefinitely. Roughly 11 million Syrian refugees, half of Syria’s population, are in need of relocation due to the six-year-long civil war, but no refugees from Syria were to be admitted due to the Islamic State militant group that operates in the country. This order, signed on Jan. 27, now called the travel ban by many, included not only citizens of the seven countries, but also could include people with dual citizenship, people who were born in these countries and people with family in one of the countries.
Director of International Services Mimi Chase said that she believes the idea behind the ban was to look at the current immigration system and “revamp it.” Chase said that while every administration does try to revamp systems or change them, this one caused problems because of the way it was carried out.
“By getting these 90 days, the idea was that would give us [the U.S. government] plenty of time to revamp the system. Unfortunately, the way the order was rolled out, it happened while people were already in the air, arriving, and all of a sudden, it was law when they got here,” Chase said. “The airlines didn’t have a chance to stop people from getting onto airplanes when to come in. So I think the rollout of it was difficult.”
Eventually, everybody who had been stuck at the airport was let into the country, Chase said. The University of Indianapolis has about 506 international students, and none of them are from the seven countries nor was anybody out traveling or caught up in the airports, Chase said. However, the ban still caused anxiety for international students at UIndy.
“We have students who, although they are not from those seven countries, do not feel that they can travel home because they don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of these 90 days. Will their country be added, will they be welcomed back? They’re going to have to make decisions: ‘Do I go home for the summer and visit my family? Or do I stay here so that I can be sure that I finish my college degree?’” Chase asked. “Once you’ve made an investment of so much money into a college degree, you don’t want to jeopardize that. Their families, I think some of them have told me, are encouraging them to stay, so they don’t jeopardize their college careers, and these are students from all sorts of different countries who are not directly impacted by the ban.”
Chase said that the order could have been implemented in a better way, so as not to cause as much outrage or as many problems. She said that the lack of preparation or warning from the administration did not help matters.
“While I can certainly see that it is within the president’s authority to look at our systems and make appropriate changes,” she said, “I am concerned for—at the human level—people who have been affected by it, where maybe that might not have been necessary.”
Associate Professor of History and Political Science Jyotika Saksena believes the travel ban has put the United States into a strange position in terms of international relationships.
“This specific policy is very problematic,” Saksena said. “One of the signs of a stable democracy and a stable government is that you have some level of consistency in policy. This sudden change in policy makes everybody uncertain, ‘What does this mean? Is there more to come? Are other countries going to be added? Is this going to be a general anti-Muslim perspective?’ It creates a lot questions on the U.S.’s position [in the world]. In the short-term, this policy is creating a lack of good will towards the United States.”
According to Associate Professor of History and Political Science Milind Thakar, the attempt to stop terrorists from entering the United States from the seven identified countries makes no sense. He said that most of the terrorist attacks that have taken place in the United States have been carried out by American-born citizens or citizens from other countries not included in the travel ban, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. According to Thakar, the travel ban was a way for the Trump administration to keep promises that were made during the presidential campaign.
“The Trump administration wanted to show it was serious about its campaign promises,” Thakar said. “The campaign promises were probably not very well thought out, because he [Trump] had called for a Muslim ban at one point, which can’t be done. You cannot target a religious group. You can target people of national origin. But Pakistan is a valuable ally in the fight against terrorism, at least its government is. Afghanistan is an American protégé, even though there is a lot of mess going on there. The United States has sort of set up the government, so you can’t ban that. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it’s a crucial ally. Saudi production helps oil prices stay stable.”
While not always perfect, the United States has stood out in the world for its integration of immigrants, according to Thakar. Because of this, there has not been a large-scale radicalization of minority immigrant groups in the United States, unlike some European countries, he said. Thakar said this is beginning to change though, with anti-immigration rhetoric such as that from Donald Trump during his presidential campaign.
“It’s very sad, because the one thing that most immigrants like myself would say is that the United States is considered more socially mobile than other immigrant countries,” Thakar said. “While things aren’t perfect for immigrants, there was more acceptability. And people felt they could improve their situation, whereas, say, in France or Germany, the immigrant minorities have remained immigrant minorities, which is one reason why the radicalization has taken place there.”
According to Saksena, the travel ban actually may cause terrorism to become a more serious problem than it already is, rather than stopping it as intended.
“It [the travel ban] will definitely not make America more secure,” Saksena said. “I think to some extent this will fuel recruitment for terrorism, just because it gives fodder for people to say, ‘See, we told you the West was anti-Muslim.’ Because that has really been this fear and rhetoric that has gone on around the Muslim world. And unfortunately, this just adds fuel to the fire.”
Thakar said that to help solve the issue of terrorism the focus needs to be not on banning people and alienating them but on reaching out to communities that may practice a different religion or may have different cultural beliefs in order to better understand them. According to Thakar, this can be practiced even on the UIndy campus by interacting with students and faculty of different national, cultural or religious backgrounds.
“There is a belief among most of the American students that the international students don’t talk, and so it’s not worth talking to them,” Thakar said. “But really the international students are too busy trying to make sense of a strange land, and so they flock together out of necessity. But they are curious. Take the effort and try to talk to them. Get over the accent, and you will find that people around the world are very similar. They just want to have a good time, get a job and get on in life. Terrorism is far from their mind.”
Something that Thakar wants people to keep in mind is that the majority of those affected by radicalized, Muslim terrorists are those in Muslim countries.
“Most of the terrorist attacks that take place are not in the First World. They take place in West Asia, North Africa and the Middle East,” Thakar said. “There is a battle being fought there between moderate and relatively open-minded Muslims and a small minority that has a different vision. The effect of a ban like this only strengthens the minority. So let’s not do it.”
The travel ban was deemed unconstitutional and has been blocked by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals as of Feb. 9. However, this has not yet concluded. As of The Reflector press time, the Trump administration was considering its options on how to continue the implementation of this ban whether through appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or through revision of the executive order.