Innocent victims of Trump’s migration ban

As a dual-citizen of the United States and Sweden/EU, I hold two of the most powerful passports in the world. In 2008 I was a visiting graduate student at Caltech, doing work that culminated in my master’s thesis, when I received very bad news: my ill mother had been moved to end-of-life hospice care in Stockholm. She’d been sick for over a year, but now she was on her deathbed. I was 23. It was time to go home.

At 8am I found a flight from L.A. to Frankfurt to Stockholm that same day. The plane left in 4 hours and was due to land 18 hours after that. My roommate who I barely knew very kindly drove me to LAX. I checked in carrying only a half-full backpack, and had to explain to the Lufthansa agent why I was flying halfway across the globe with little more than a toothbrush.

My father picked me up at the airport and we drove straight to the hospice center. My mother died the next day, but I had made it in time, and got to see her before she went.

I’m telling this story because nine years later, I’m an assistant professor at Stanford, having obtained degrees from universities in three countries. Outside my faculty office is the bullpen of brilliant graduate students that our department recruits from all over the world, many of them from Iran and other countries that are subject to Trump’s recent Executive Order. One of the consequences of the new order is that as of yesterday, these students are among the 500,000 legal residents who can not re-enter the United States if they leave it. That means that if one of them needs to go home for a family emergency, they will be forced to choose between that emergency and their Stanford enrollment. I can not imagine making that decision. Trump’s ban is not just a ban on immigration, it is a ban on migration. Trump’s order has put the students in an utterly inhumane position, and I so hope that no person’s situation comes near the situation I found myself in nine years ago. I had two of the most powerful passports in the world to help me, but these students do not.

There are other disgraceful immediate impacts of Trump’s order on the academy. Our conferences are being splintered, since e.g. Iranians outside the U.S. cannot attend conferences here, while Iranians currently inside the U.S. cannot travel to conferences abroad and re-enter. Lose-lose. Note that while the immigration bans for most of the countries is temporary, the ban for Syrian is indefinite.

Some relevant tweets:

And then there’s the issue of new student admissions, both of undergraduate and graduate students:

The above tweets describe a sad state of affairs, but today my thoughts are with all the Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan, Somalian, Sudanese, Syrian, and Yemeni nationals for whom the new Executive Order drives a rift between their lives in the United States and their lives abroad. A dark day, and may this ban be swiftly reversed.

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