Trump’s Immigration Ban Affects Students, Professors At U of O

Feb 1, 2017

From professors to college students to families with small children—the impacts of President Trump’s immigration ban continue to reverberate. The suspension of immigrants and refugees from 7 Muslim majority countries affects some people living in Eugene.

Awab Al-Rawe is a University of Oregon graduate student and leader of the Arab Student Union at the U of O. He's from Iraq.
Credit Rachael McDonald

On the Sunday after Trump’s order came out, nearly 1-thousand people rallied in protest at the Eugene Federal building, joining other demonstrations around the country.

[chanting]

Al-Rawe:  “I would like first to thank you for your support, for your enthusiasm.” [cheers]

Awab Al-Rawe, a University of Oregon graduate student and leader of the campus Arab Student Union spoke at the rally. He moved to Eugene 7 years ago to attend the U of O.

Al-Rawe’s mother came to visit him in Eugene recently from Iraq. Now she’s uncertain of what to do because of the immigration ban. Al-Rawe says his mother hoped to gain asylum in the U.S. to escape violence in Bagdad.

Al Rawe: “She wants to live in peace and not in war, paranoid. But at this point if her application is frozen and consequently denied, then she will have to be sent back home.”

Al-Rawe says when he receives his master’s degree in June, his father, who is in Bagdad, won’t be able to attend his graduation. Also, Al-Rawe doesn’t think he can remain in Eugene once his student visa expires.

Al-Rawe: “At the point where we become illegal in this country is the point at which we have to go back home.”

Al-Rawe says he fears returning to Iraq because Isis controls its second largest city and the violence is inescapable.

Al-Rawe: “When I came to the United States, I had the intention coming here was very clear, was to get education, go back to Iraq and help in whichever way possible.”

Al-Rawe says he is trying to remain hopeful and Eugene’s Sunday rally in support of immigrants and refugees helped with that. But there’s more that can be done.

Shabman Akhtari was born in Iran. She studied in Canada and was hired as a professor of mathematics at the University of Oregon in 2012. She says because she travels often for work, she’s feeling uncertain. Akhtari doesn’t know if she’ll be allowed back into the U.S. if she goes to an upcoming conference in Toronto.

Akhtari: “It’s a big responsibility for me to decide whether I go and I don’t miss this great research opportunity that will be very important in my career, or whether I stay and just make sure that I’m here to do my job.”

But she feels most concerned about international students who are in a state of fear and confusion. She realized she doesn’t have any advice for them.

Akhtari: “I really wanted to help but there was nothing I could tell them. So I can’t imagine how are students, our international students, even those that are not yet impacted by this, are feeling. And this is a difficult time. “

Akhtari says she worries how the uncertainty will affect people’s studies at the U of O.

Raquel Hecht is a Eugene immigration lawyer. She says the travel ban has put many of her clients in turmoil. She is working with a couple from Yemen who have been trying to bring their parents   here.

Hecht: “We have people who are legal permanent residents who are outside the country right now. And those, originally, were not being allowed back in.. These are people who’ve already been living here for years and years.”

Hecht points out that there have been no fatal terror attacks by people from any of the 7 countries on Trump’s list.

Mulhern: “We were just really dismayed and disappointed at this action.”

Tom Mulhern is with Catholic Community Services which helped bring two Syrian brothers here as refugees. Their parents, still in Turkey, have been going through the vetting process to come to the U.S. Now that process is halted.

Mulhern: “We know that refugees are very thoroughly screened, very thoroughly vetted and that there has not been an issue with crimes of terrorism or other kinds of crimes with refugees coming to this country through that process.”

Mulhern says historically the U.S. has been a welcoming place for refugees.

Eugene Attorney Raquel Hecht is worried the immigration ban will fuel hatred of the U.S. in other countries.

Hecht: “We are sending a message to all the world, including people outside the country who would wish us harm that we hate Muslims, that we are aggressive towards the Muslim communities. And it’s just fodder for Isis.”

Washington State’s Attorney General has filed a lawsuit challenging the president’s executive order suspending immigrants and refugees from 7 Muslim countries. Oregon’s Attorney General is also considering a challenge.

 

Copyright 2017 KLCC.