Last week President Trump signed an executive order that suspended refugee resettlement and temporarily banned travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Janis Boettinger, vice provost and director of the USU Office of Global Engagement, speaks on how some international students, faculty and visiting scholars at Utah State University are worried about the impact it has on their education opportunities.
How has the executive order affected the Global Engagement Office?
JB: Well, there’s a lot of apprehension. We have students from the seven countries who are listed in the ban on immigration for the next 90 days. We also have Muslim students who are not from those countries who are very apprehensive. The feeling in the international student community at USU, which is probably typical around the United States, is we’re not welcome here. We’re not welcome here in this country. Do we want to stay? Am I welcome in the United States? Should I consider Canada or some other county?
What do you say to concerns like that?
JB: We try to let them know how much we appreciate them. Mirroring the statement put out by President Cockett on Monday, we deeply care about our international students, our visiting scholars, our international faculty and staff. We hope that we’re going to get through this. We as an institution will do whatever we can to help them, to advise them on their visas, to do everything within the law that we can to give them some advice like we did in the statement. If you are from these seven countries, probably the best thing you should do is not travel outside the U.S., because you may not be able to get back in.
How will this affect students who are planning to travel over spring break?
JB: The 90 days for the students who are from the seven countries is about the length of spring break. But many of those students aren’t graduating in May. They’re coming back in the fall to continue their degree programs. There’s also some students who were planning on doing research in other countries. Those students, their plans have been interrupted. They may not be able to see their family this summer, because they’d be risking if they left the country they may not be able to get back into the US and finish their degree. Their plans for research, if they leave the country to the research that’s part of their program of study, they cannot get back in the country to finish their degree.
How do you think things will work out?
JB: I’m not going to predict what is going to happen. I’m very apprehensive about what the future holds, whether more countries will be added to the list. I know the news is saying this is just a temporary ban. Well, it’s a 90 day ban for nationals for the seven countries. It’s a 120 day ban for refugees from those countries. And it’s a permanent ban basically indefinitely for refugees from Syria. I really don’t know.
So what are you trying to do to help international students and faculty?
JB: So what we’re trying to do is reinforce President Cockett’s message. We deeply care about you and we will do everything we can to help you. We have no control over whether or not the executive order stays or goes, but we are keeping on top of all the information. We say don’t panic yet. Come on into our office, sit down with one of our immigration advisors and we’ll look specifically at your situation and do our best to give you the best information we have available.