Dreams, disillusionment

Photo by Chris Yang | The Falcon
Junior Esra Alameedi, a pre-med student, says that it isn’t right to say that immigrants are inherently dangerous people.

 

It all started as a joke.

While living in Indonesia, senior Joshua Loupatty joked about studying abroad away from home in the United States, but his father took it seriously.

Loupatty said that his father began researching agents and schools overseas shortly after their conversation.

“A week later, he said that I needed to go to Jakarta, which is the capital city, to meet with my agent and talk about the process that I have to go through in order for me to come here,” he said.

Arriving in Washington with a student F1 visa, Loupatty attended Shoreline Community College and earned his Associate of Arts degree before transferring to Seattle Pacific University. Since then, he feels his experience has been “really amazing” because he has grown not only in an educational sense but also in an environmental, cultural and communal sense as well.

But during the 2016 presidential elections, Loupatty and other international students grew anxious. To devote so much time studying in America and believe that America will provide opportunities only to end up going home right away, Loupatty said, is a frightening thought.

“It’s disappointing to know that not only does it affect opportunity, but it affects how we feel as international students,” he continued. “The ban itself is affecting a lot of people, and I believe also the citizens here in America. It’s affecting them too because this is what America is [well known for] now since the Trump ban.”

President Donald Trump’s recent executive order, signed on Jan. 27, included a suspension of all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. Although the order did not provide a clear list of all affected countries, a draft of the order identified seven predominantly-Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

On SPU’s Facebook confessions page, amidst light-hearted jokes and confessions of admirations, political posts pepper the page’s wall.

While there are many students who have voiced their disdain for the ban, there are others still who are in favor of the order.

Posted last month on Jan. 31, one post reads, “Can someone please explain to me how a 90-day travel ban from a few countries is unconstitutional? Please. Explain to me the part that affords rights for people who are not citizens of this country.”

Another post from the same day says, “I think it’s crazy how it’s not okay to not let someone in our country. They are not Americans, they don’t get the rights we do; they are not equal. Yes, they should be able to come in if safe, but who is safe to let in?”

Esra Alameedi was in class when the ban took place, but she took a look at the video of President Trump signing the ban paperwork once she got home. Although she is a U.S. citizen, her family is originally from Iraq.

Alameedi believes the ban to be unconstitutional because it generalizes a whole country, labeling them as terrorists, as a danger.

She said immigrants “are a part of this country.” It’s not right to say that because they have come to the U.S. to work, they are dangerous or have the ability to “steal” the rights of the citizens, she explained.

“One thing we have in common is we are human,” Alameedi said. “You don’t know who is safe or dangerous. So banning the whole country isn’t the best idea either. It’s not going to lessen the crimes that we experience. It just makes the enemy stronger, and we are more prone to danger.”

Thousands of students across the country, like Alameedi, were affected by the ban in some way or form. Some are immigrants while others are international students studying on a visa, though not all international students come from the seven countries listed in the order.   

Here at SPU alone, the international student population, representing about 35 different countries, includes 158 undergraduates and 50 graduate students. SPU also oversees 35 students who have graduated but are doing practical training, so, altogether, the university manages 243 international students according to Lori Tongol from SPU’s International Student Services.

Kar Mun Cheah, the president of the International Students Club, continues to fear not only for individuals who have been affected but also for herself and other international students since supporters of the ban have openly voiced their opinions and threats.

Although Cheah hopes for the best, she asks: “If the president can make such a decision now so early in his presidency that carries such a large negative impact, what does it say for any future decisions made?”

Social media, she’s noticed, has been abuzz with threats directed not solely at citizens from the seven countries, but also at non-American and non-Caucasian citizens. With the ban in place, she said, she’s seen a much larger scale acknowledgment of race and fear of diversity than in previous years.

On the other hand, she said that she’s also seen a large group of people who are not afraid to stand up for their beliefs.

“It was encouraging to see significantly large groups of people who do not fear diversity, who did not show discrimination, stand against the ban,” Cheah said.

Sarah-Ann Moh, from Singapore, is proud that Seattle and Washington are committed to wanting to welcome refugees. She’s thankful, she said, to live in a state where she feels safe, where there are companies and organizations that commit themselves to welcoming refugees.

“There are a lot of people suffering, and because we can’t see directly, it’s harder to relate,” Moh said. “It’s even harder when people here don’t exactly accept you … English is my first language and there’s a lot of privileges that I have that refugees don’t have, so I think it must be really hard for them, and kindness is very important.”

In response to the ban, SPU President Dan Martin sent out an email on Jan. 30, just a few days after the ban was enacted. It stated that SPU is committed to standing with its students and giving them support as they continue their education at Seattle Pacific.

“We care deeply for our international brothers and sisters,” the email reads, “and we will do all we can to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment for them and all those on our campus, regardless of faith or nationality.”

Martin wasn’t the only one to respond, however. On Feb. 3, a federal court judge from Washington issued a nationwide temporary restraining order.

The case was quickly appealed to the  Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco by the Trump administration, but the three-judge panel there unanimously decided to leave the restraining order in place.

Aimee Kennedy, an international student advisor, was initially excited to hear that the ban was being lifted, but the sense of fear and anxiety about it and this presidency hasn’t changed for her students, she said.

Kennedy explained, “They are anxious about what else is going to happen in the current political climate, and there is just so much unknown. It’s hard not to be anxious when there is so much change so quickly.”

One such international student, senior Truc Nguyen, has been in the U.S. for five years. Although she lived in Los Angeles first, she visited Seattle in Spring 2013 and decided to move here because of the weather and the job opportunities the area provided.

Nguyen said she hasn’t gone back home to Vietnam since coming to the U.S. because she’s afraid that if she goes back, something might happen, and she might not be able to get a visa to return to the U.S. to study.

It’s disappointing, Loupatty said, to know that not only does the ban affect opportunity, but also affects “how we feel as international students, to be insecure.”

Instead of focusing on being happy about graduation and perhaps getting the opportunity to work in the U.S., he feels overwhelmed with the thought of having to simply go back home.

“It’s not working out,” he said. “Coming from an international student’s perspective, it’s really scary to think that you actually devote all of your time studying here and believe that America will provide an opportunity for you, but will end up just going home right away after — that is just really scary to know.”

These are the accounts of international students before the executive order was revised on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

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