Trump's First 100 days

Syracuse University community members still remain skeptical of Trump’s updated travel ban

Aline Martins | Staff Photographer

After President Donald Trump signed his executive order on travel and refugee ban in January, hundreds protested at Syracuse Hancock International Airport.

President Donald Trump’s modified version of his controversial executive order banning entry from certain countries has drawn ire from Syracuse University community members.

Trump signed a new executive order on Monday that puts a hold on issuing visas for citizens of six countries: Iran, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Sudan for 90 days, and suspends the United States’ refugee program for 120 days.

The order is a less severe version of his Jan. 27 ban on travel, with Iraq no longer included as one of the banned countries. While the first ban went into effect immediately, the new order’s rules will begin on March 16. The new rules apply for future visa applicants, also, but those who currently have a valid visa to enter the U.S. are not subjected to travel restriction. Individuals who have permanent resident status are also exempt from the new rules, unlike the first order.

The new order was issued after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of the original travel ban, upholding an earlier decision made by a federal judge in Seattle.

SU Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly in an email to the campus community Tuesday said the university’s office of the general counsel is reviewing the new order. Wheatly added that the office’s attorneys and staff members from the Slutzker Center for International Services are still available to give advice to SU students, faculty and staff affected by the new executive order.

Despite the executive order’s changes, some in the SU community still feel the order violates the principles of the U.S.

“When you sign an executive order, you’re saying let them be killed,” said Nada Odeh, an SU graduate student in the museum studies program who fled Syria in 2012 with her family.

On Friday, Odeh held an event in honor of Bassel Shehada, an SU student killed while filming a documentary in 2012 during a Syrian government attack in Homs. She said this new ban is a dishonor to people like Shehada who have been killed senselessly in war.

Odeh said she still believes refugees must be welcome to enter the U.S. if the world is going to help stop the Syrian government from committing violence throughout the Middle Eastern country.

“It’s either killing people in their lands or killing all the dreams that they have for a new life,” she said.

Another difference between the previous executive order and the one issued Monday was the removal of language about “religious minorities.” That language is part of what courts used to block the first executive order because it appeared to give priority to Christian refugees. Many said this showed the order was targeting Muslims, despite the administration’s denial.

Mehrzad Boroujerdi, political science department chair at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said the new rule is an improvement compared to Trump’s initial order, pointing out that the older version of the rule banned an Iraqi translator who worked for the U.S. Army from entering the U.S. Still, he added the new rule is on shaky legal ground and described it as still being a Muslim ban.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project, told “Meet The Press Daily” on MSNBC Monday the ACLU will file a lawsuit.

Osamah Khalil, assistant professor of history at Maxwell, said in an email the ban is not driven by national security concerns. With this new ban, Khalil said the Trump administration effectively admitted his initial order was “hastily crafted and implemented in an incompetent manner” to cause disruption to individuals entering the U.S. with legal and valid visas, green cards and passports.

The effectiveness of the original travel ban in preventing terrorism was contested, even among government agencies. After the first ban was enforced, the Associated Press obtained an internal Department of Homeland Security assessment validating citizenship as an “unlikely indicator” in determining terrorist threats to the U.S.

Rouzbeh Berton, a Ph.D. candidate in civil and environmental engineering from Iran, said the new order doesn’t affect him much. His parents were expected to attend his graduation this May and see him for the first time since he came to the U.S. in 2009. But since Monday’s executive order still bans issuing new visas for Iranian citizens for 90 days starting March 16, there is still not enough time to secure travel visas for the trip.

Berton said he is planning to go back to Iran or go to other countries to unite with his parents, adding that he is planning to leave the country after getting his degree instead of looking for job opportunities in the U.S.

When Berton, who had a beard until recently, was at Destiny USA about a month ago, he said he was called “one of those jihadis” by another man.

“I had a long beard before and nobody told me anything … but it was interesting for the first time after eight years I am in this city I had that experience,” Berton said. “ … I was so scared that when I came back home I just shaved my entire beard because I did not want to lose my life.”

Berton said he specifically chose to attend graduate school in the U.S. because of the country’s tradition in welcoming immigrants and appreciating their contribution. But after Trump became president he said he no longer feels safe to go outside and thinks the way people look at foreigners has changed.

“I don’t think this country is safe anymore for immigrants,” Berton said.

Assistant News Editor Sam Ogozalek contributed to this story

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