Trump's first 100 days

At Syracuse University, Trump’s executive order has consequences

Aline Martins | Staff Writer

Many Syracuse residents, including Khadijo Abdulkadir, gathered at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport on Sunday night to protest Trump's refugee ban.

As the world was left reeling from President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration over the weekend, a petition circulated among academics in opposition of the order. The signatories make a blistering statement, lambasting the order as a detriment to research and claiming it will impact others in higher education by tearing families apart.

The signatures, which surpassed 8,800 with 32 from Syracuse University faculty as of Monday afternoon, sent a clear message that academia rebukes the order that bans all citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and refugees for 120 days from entering the U.S.

“This measure is fatally disruptive to the lives of these immigrants, their families, and the communities of which they form an integral part. It is inhumane, ineffective, and un-American,” the petition reads.

The concerns laid out in the petition are coming to fruition at SU. Fifty students from the banned countries — Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — have already been advised not to travel out of the country because they will not be allowed back in.

In addition to those 50 students, the effects of the ban are reverberating through the academic ranks at SU and with SU’s refugee community. Here are the stories of three people at SU affected by the executive order:


Mehrzad Boroujerdi, chair of the political science department at SU

For Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Trump’s executive order affects him both personally and professionally.

Boroujerdi’s 71-year-old mother is out of the country with a green card. Over the weekend, he was unsure if his mother, who is from Iran, would be able to travel back into the country.

“The prospect of her not being able to come visit us and my children is deeply offending,” Boroujerdi said.

Green cards were originally included in the ban. But amid national outcry as legal residents were being detained at airports, the Department of Homeland Security announced Sunday they would review green card holders on a “case-by-case” basis to see if they are “a serious threat to public safety and welfare.”

As a faculty member at SU, the ban means that Boroujerdi and others at the university have to scramble to adjust their plans with scholars and researchers from the seven banned countries. Next week, Boroujerdi said, the university planned to host a scholar who has been imprisoned in Iran. Boroujerdi would not give the scholar’s name or more information, citing safety concerns because the scholar has been politically persecuted. Now, he is unsure if the scholar will be able to come to SU at all.

“It’s a serious infringement on our academic rights,” he said.


Rouzbeh Berton, a Ph.D. candidate in civil and environmental engineering

The plans were set. Rouzbeh Berton’s parents were going to see him graduate from SU. This was monumental for Berton because he has not seen his parents in more than seven years. In the time he has been at college, he never traveled or wanted his parents to travel. There was always a part of him that feared something might go wrong with his visa. Or that one of his parents could not get a visa.

This May, he thought, he would see his parents for the first time since he started university in the U.S. Berton had been planning to get his parents visas so they could come from Iran and see his graduation ceremony.

But after Trump’s executive order banned travel from Iran for 90 days, Berton’s parents may not have enough time to secure travel visas. In other words, his parents may not be able come to the U.S. to see their son graduate and get his Ph.D.

“With this executive order, everything is ruined,” Berton said. “I hate feeling like this.”

Berton was at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport along with hundreds of others on Sunday to protest the executive order. He said it was especially heartwarming to see people who aren’t immigrants support people like him. Even though the ban is keeping his family from visiting him, he said the protest made him feel hopeful.

“I felt like I was not alone, that there are good people around and there are people who think differently,” he said.


Khadijo Abdulkadir, junior in the College of Arts and Sciences

Khadijo Abdulkadir stepped forward, a megaphone in hand. She fumbled with the buttons for a few seconds. Hundreds surrounded her, eagerly awaiting what she had to say.

“It means so much, you have no idea how much it means to me, especially speaking on my personal experience,” she said Sunday in front of hundreds protesters at the Syracuse airport.

The Syracuse protest was one of many at airports around the country. Protesters held signs with messages of support to Muslims and refugees. Abdulkadir is both.

Her voice cracking, Abdulkadir began to explain her story, in broad strokes, to the protesters. Her aunt and uncle are refugees from Somalia living in a Kenyan refugee camp. For 10 years, they had been going through the process of becoming refugees. Recently, they had been classified as such and had been assigned for settlement in Syracuse. On Friday, just after Trump signed the executive order, Abdulkadir’s aunt and uncle were on a bus to Nairobi. They were booked on a flight to the U.S. in two weeks. Then, without warning, the bus turned around and took them back to the refugee camp.

“I would talk more,” Abdulkadir said to the protesters. “But I can’t. Thank you for your support.”

Abdulkadir is a full-time student at SU and has been a refugee in the U.S. for nine years. Before that, she was born in the same refugee camp where her aunt and uncle are today. After a five-year vetting process, she and her family settled in Syracuse.

In an interview before the Syracuse protest, Abdulkadir said her situation is particularly dire because her aunt and uncle are sick. Her uncle lost his eyesight while living in the refugee camp. The corrective surgery is expensive and almost inaccessible in Kenya. Abdulkadir hoped her uncle could receive the surgery in the U.S.

Her aunt is also sick, but Abdulkadir declined to go into further detail.

“They are really powerless,” she said. “And so am I.”

Abdulkadir still hasn’t called her aunt and uncle because she “can’t bear the sadness.”

“Until now I haven’t even called them. Do I tell them that, sorry, after 10 years you’re not able to join us? I had my aunt calling me before this and asking me: ‘What should I bring? What should I buy?’ I told her to just come — that’s all we care about,” Abdulkadir said.

The future of Abdulkadir’s aunt and uncle is unknown. She isn’t sure if they will be settled in the U.S. once Trump’s refugee ban is lifted after 120 days.

“For 10 years they’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting,” she said. ”I don’t even know how we will go on.”


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