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Travel Ban Has Mixed Impact on Ole Miss

Mrudvi Bakshi sits in between classes. (Photo/Ariyl Onstott)

As the semester winds down, finals week is underway and students prepare to leave for the summer, some students face going home with apprehension.
On March 3, President Trump unveiled an updated travel ban that bars foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.  This new executive order comes six weeks after the original order January 27, which had also banned visitors from Iraq.
Mrudvi Bakshi, a graduate journalism student from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, worries that the travel ban might affect all international students, regardless of which country they come from.
“I think we are just worried about how we are going to be checked, what we are going to be asked, and you don’t want to be in that situation. We are still students here. I know some people who decided to go home for the summer, not being from any of the countries that are banned, but they are still worried. ‘What if they stop us? What if we can’t come back?’” she said.
While Bakshi is from the United Arab Emirates, a country not included in the six countries banned by the executive order, the possibility of not being able to enter the United States again, for whatever reason, has her trying to avoid returning home right now. She defends her thesis in the summer, and currently, she must find a job in the United States within the next three months to be able to stay in the country.
Many students’ lives have been directly and indirectly affected by the travel ban over the past few months, prompting questions as to what goes into creating such a policy.
Immigration Policy & National Security
Wesley Dickens, career planning specialist for the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies at Ole Miss, explains that intelligence is gathered to inform policy making, but policymakers do not have to take the recommendations of the intelligence community.
“The main thing to remember with all intelligence, especially if you move forward with formulating policy out of it, is that the credibility factor is huge for intelligence. So, you don’t want to do anything to ruin credibility.” he said.
According to Dickens, it is possible that the intelligence community is saying that these six countries pose high risks, and since there is no way to vet all people coming from each country, it is better to be safe than sorry. Using that intelligence, however, to ban people from these countries is a pure policy decision. And Dickens says that this policy decision seems to be in line with Trump’s campaign promises.
Based on what he has read, Dickens says that he doesn’t perceive the threat the same way as the administration because looking at past occurrences shows that attacks usually have a domestic origin. However, “without knowing it [the intelligence], I would defer to the administration, just because I don’t have the facts,” he said.

Exchange Student Interest

Yet, while many international students face apprehension in leaving the United States, the travel ban seems to have no effect on exchange students wanting to study at the University of Mississippi.
International student advisor Ashley Fly says that the Study Abroad Office is still expecting around 110 exchange students for the next fall semester.

“I was kind of surprised because our numbers for the fall, so this next academic year, our numbers are looking pretty strong, which I thought we were definitely going to see a dip with the current administration,” she said.
In August, residence halls will be teeming with life as students from around the world descend upon the campus for the first time. For students like Bakshi, August will be a desperate attempt to continue her stay.
She sighs as she speaks, “Honestly I would want to work here. I don’t want to be amongst those who say, ‘I just came here to study.’ I’ll just be honest, I want to work here, because I know it’s really good here. I mean why wouldn’t I want to try in the future for being in The New Yorker? Why wouldn’t I want to be in The New York Times? You have so many options here, which I know I wouldn’t have otherwise. So yes, it would be really, really bad [to not be able to come back]. Somewhere in the back of my mind I would have to make truce with it–that okay, it’s over. But yeah, I’m hoping all’s not gone yet.”

Story contributed by Ariyl Onstott (ariylceleste@outlook.com)

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