On Feb. 2, Dr. Kenneth Osgood, Professor of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and director of the McBride Honors Program, led a discussion on the recent executive order that, on Jan. 27, banned individuals from Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Iran from entering the United States.
Officially, the order banned individuals from those countries from entering the United States for at least 90 days, and also prevented refugees fleeing from Middle Eastern conflicts from entering for at least 120 days.
The order was rushed to be approved, ignoring the normal processes of review and revision among the agencies that would enforce the order. This order affected the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, and State. None were notified of the order until the president had signed the order. The National Security Council was actively prevented from evaluating it.
The ban was described as an act of counter-terrorism; however, no counter-terrorism experts supported it publicly.
“It’s a very dangerous thing to have a White House that can’t with the remotest pretense of competence and governance put together a major policy document on a crucial set of national security issues without inducing an avalanche of litigation and wide diplomatic fallout,” Benjamin Wittes, a journalist, commented.
The danger was found in the document’s selective targeting of nations. No terror attacks committed from 9/11 onward were committed by people from any of the banned countries; in fact, many of the attacks were done by people of Saudi, Pakistani, or Egyptian descent, with most being American citizens themselves.
“This is [a document that] will cause hardship and misery for tens or hundreds of thousands of people because that is precisely what it is intended to do,”Wittes said.
This document affected everyone; businesses, academic institutions, foreign affairs, and the 3.3 million Muslims who call America home.
Here at Mines, it especially affected five Iranian Ph.D. students, all present at the discussion.
One of the affected students, Zoheir Khademian, a Ph.D. candidate in Mining Engineering and president of Mines’ Iranian Student Association, came to the United States in 2014 to pursue his degree here, though he ranked first in the Iranian Ph.D. entrance exam.
“I decided to pursue my education here at Mines as I believe America is the land of opportunity, and CSM is the most respected mining school in the world,” Khademian said.
Khademian came here with his family, but his wife had to return to Iran eight months ago to help her father through his cancer treatment.
His wife was in the process of applying for a visa to return when the ban was enacted, preventing her from obtaining one for at least another three months.
“We are confused and disappointed,” says Khademian. “I have little hope I can get her back in the next year.”
Vahad Bolvardi, a Ph.D. candidate in Civil Engineering, shared how his daughter, an American citizen in need of urgent access to medical care in the United States, cannot receive the care she needs as she remains in Iran with her mother, who applied for a visa renewal but was stalled by the order.
These five students all face a similar dilemma; do they stay, separated from their families, or return to Iran, leaving behind the opportunities they worked so hard for?
The Executive Order claimed that “to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.”
Yet, these students, like so many others affected by the executive order, are far from hostile. They came to America with goals and aspirations and hopes for themselves and their families, seeking opportunities our country could provide them, and this order threatened to take it all away.
“At this time, we feel our everyday life has turned into a nightmare,” Khademian said. “We have lost our concentration on the research that we believe can make a long lasting contribution to this country. We want everybody to know that we are an asset to this country, not a danger.”