KNOXVILLE—Recent legal changes to President Donald Trump’s executive order concerning immigration has added another layer of confusion and tension to an already tightly wound situation.
Mustafa Sadiq is a graduate student majoring in computer engineering at the University of Tennessee and is very concerned about the situation.For the last two years, he has been a resident of Knoxville and is an exchange student sponsored by his government in Iraq.
Dec. 27, 2014, Sadiq arrived in America with his J-1 student visa. J-1 exchange visitors come to the United States to teach, receive education or to present skills. After completion, they return to their countries.
The seven targeted countries are Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen,Somalia and Sadiq’s home country of Iraq.
Sadiq’s response to his country being on the list is one of shock and unease.
“This country (the U.S.) has always been generous to refugees, immigrants and people in need,” he said.”This executive order caused a lot of trouble so far and I don’t think it was well studied before being issued.”
Sadiq said he believes that the selection of the countries was not based on the concept that they are predominately Muslim countries. He also said he believes that the plea for security is not the case either because of the security measures already set in place for entry into the U.S.
“There is another target for this ban that is not just a Muslim ban,” he said. “I don’t believe it is just for security purposes because the process is already the longest and hardest worldwide.”
Sadiq is familiar with the daunting task of waiting for approval to enter the U.S. and he also knows that for some people it can be a life long journey.
“I waited for my visa for almost six months and I know that other people who are applying to get green cards or other similar things have waited a long time as well,” he said. “Some of them left Iraq in 1998 and still didn’t arrive t0 the U.S.”
“They have been kept in these temporary camps for investigations and even if they have a relative that is involved in any terrorism activities, they will never arrive here,” Sadiq said.
Being in America during this time has brought many concerns to mind in terms of his travel agenda. Parts of his Ph.D requirements involve him participating in various conferences and writing papers for publication.
He is concerned that if he needs to leave the country for school that he might not be permitted to return.
“This is the concern of all of us, even though we have our official visa and legal status to be here, this executive order has made us afraid of doing anything,” he said. “Having this executive order will prevent me from going anywhere because I’m not sure whether I can come back or not.”
There have been many protests at U.S. airports. Sadiq fears traveling by plane within the states because of recent events.
“Some people warned us of traveling by plane from one city to another and going to an airport will just cause us a lot of trouble, so right now I am present in my city and I cannot go anywhere,” he said.
Sadiq believes that his country’s response to the executive order of not allowing Americans entry into Iraq would be more harmful than beneficial.He said it is important to allow Americans into Iraq to assist in the ongoing refugee crisis and to help fight against ISIS.
“Each political action will have some reaction—a lot of humanitarian activists from the U.S. are working in refugee camps along side Iraq to support families and preventing them from going inside means that the people in real need will not be able to get help,” he said.
“There are U.S. soldiers fighting ISIS with the Iraqi army and this executive order has caused Iraq to lose its confidence in the American side in facing a common enemy.”
Along with the strained relationships that may result from the immigration ban, Sadiq believes the executive order has led many people in the Muslim community to question their value as citizens.
“For a long time the Muslim community considered themselves as equal citizens of this country and they believe they have earned their citizenship by working hard and contributing to this country,” he said. “Seeing that parts of their family are unable to come here and join them reminds them that there is some kind of discrimination.”
As a member of the Muslim community, Sadiq feels that Americans have already started to show their consolidation and welcoming of refugees and immigrants. His hope is that the actions of the people will be remembered and that Americans will continue to take on this challenge.
“Politicians can come and go but humanity and compassion to others will be remembered,” he said. “As an Iraqi living in the U.S, seeing citizens protesting their government because they consider me as an equal means a lot to me. I hope that American people will arise to this challenge.”
Once Sadiq has completed his graduate degree, he will return to his home in Iraq to work and be with his family. Until then he hopes to spread the news to Iraq of the positive nature of the American people. He also hopes that in the future executive orders will be studied thoroughly and that they consider all outcomes.