By Greyson Scudder
On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump released an executive order banning immigrants from seven countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia) from entering the U.S. The ban went into effect immediately, with only a limited number of immigrants (decided on a case by case basis) allowed in for each of the seven countries, and a complete halt of all refugees attempting to enter the United States. Though most coverage of the ban has been national—especially in metropolises like New York City or Los Angeles—it has repercussions even at Millsaps.
Molly West, Director of International Admissions for Millsaps College, said that the overall number of directly affected students was low.
However, West was also pointed out that just because only a few students are directly affected by the bans, there were also many that were indirectly affected: many students had family members that are impacted by the executive order, or are simply wondering if they will be next on the list of immigrants that are no longer welcome.
Hina Quereshi and Karam Rahat, both Muslim students of Pakistani heritage, co-presidents of the Muslim Student Association and participants in the Vigil for Muslims, Refugees, and Immigrants held on Feb. 2, shared this sentiment.
“You really get this feeling of alienation being solidified,” Quereshi said. She also recalls a conversation with Rahat: “I remember the day Karam asked me, without a single smile on his face, being serious, looked me dead set in the eyes and said ‘At what point do we really need to get out of the country?’”
This is not a feeling that all Millsaps students share, however. Michael Lambert, a sophomore economics major, and a volunteer of the Trump campaign, argues that the ban is being received more negatively than it should be. “I support the underlying reasons for it-immigration reform.” Lambert said.
The ban not only affects currently enrolled international students at Millsaps but could also affect how many international students apply to Millsaps in the future. When asked if she thought the ban would negatively affect international enrollment, West said, “It’s hard to say exactly, there’s a number of factors, but it certainly makes that more challenging.”
As for current students, the primary concern is looking toward the future. Quereshi explained that yes, there are only seven countries under the ban now, but wondered how long before more countries would be added. In Rahat’s view, religion is the primary basis for the ban.
“It’s the rationale for banning; you are banning countries solely based on a religious belief,” Rahat said. “That’s the only criteria.”
Though there are only a limited number of students on campus directly affected by the ban, the immigration ban is having widespread effects on how international students, and even sons and daughters of immigrants enrolled at Millsaps, perceive themselves and their peers. As Rahat and Quereshi explain, the issue is every bit as much cultural as it is political.
Despite the tension and alienation created by the immigration ban, Dr. Robert Pearigen, President of Millsaps College wrote in a document released shortly following the ban describing the “challenges” ahead.
“It is my hope that our commitment will be made stronger by the challenges now before us, and that Millsaps will continue to be a place where our students, faculty, staff, and the community beyond our campus can gather for peaceful, heartfelt, and honest discussions about those challenges,” Pearigen wrote.
West remains steadfast to the same ideals, noting that any international student feeling concerned for their future or in any way worried about what may happen to them, that her door is always open for them.
Quereshi also gave out a piece of advice for students that were worried to identify as Muslim, saying “Regardless of everything that is going on in the nation, do not feel sorry for who you are, for what you are feeling. You can be upset, but always stick to your roots.”