Muslim Student Association President Zakee Naqvi shares his thoughts on the travel ban at the Fresno State campus on Feb. 5, 217. (Khone Saysamongdy/The Collegian)

With travel ban on hold, Castro and students hoping for repeal

At its first meeting of the semester, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) had much to talk about. Among issues that were discussed was a travel ban imposed on several countries in the Middle East that was issued through executive order by President Donald Trump.

Students opposed to the travel ban are hoping it is lifted completely. Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro offered the full support of the university to anyone affected by the president’s orders. But enforcement of two portions of the order are currently halted by the courts and not being enforced.

The president issued the “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorists Entry into the United States” order on Jan. 27, which includes eight sections of new policies the administration hopes will protect Americans from terrorism. Critics have responded to the president by saying the ban shuns countries with a Muslim-majority population.

One section of the order temporarily bans the travel from seven countries “of concern” to the president – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Another section suspends refugee acceptance for 120 days.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit based in San Francisco is expected to respond on whether it will get rid of a block to the president’s travel and refugee ban after a federal judge from Washington state filed a restraining order on Friday.

Judge James Robart of the Federal District Court in Seattle filed the complaint along with the state of Minnesota. Robart’s complaint specifically invalidated the 90-day travel ban and 120-day refugee suspension portion of the executive order.

Expected now is a response from the Ninth Circuit court on whether it will allow the federal government to resume the full order by the president. The court meets Monday at 3 p.m.

Trump didn’t hold back on commenting on Robart’s decision, saying Saturday on Twitter, “Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country.”

The court process that is examining the two portions of the order has Zakee Naqvi, president of the MSA and senior kinesiology student, thinking there is hope that the travel ban will be lifted completely. Naqvi praised the checks and balances system the country has.

“I feel like it helps put faith in the system that we have and to show that it’s not a dictatorship or that it is not controlled by a few people,” Naqvi said.

The order by the president did get personal for some members of his club, who either have family in one of the seven countries or know someone who does, Naqvi said.
“Regardless whether I know them, these are my people that [Trump] is banning. These are my people,” Naqvi said. “They are trying to seek refuge from violence, from all kinds of atrocities, all kinds of traumatic instances (and) denying them that is an incredible injustice to humanity.”

Castro said there are 15 students currently at Fresno State who are citizens from the countries where Muslims were temporarily banned from traveling.

Castro did not provide a specific number of faculty or staff who have ties to those countries, but did say a handful of them were also affected by the president’s order.

“We’ve been in communication with them, and we are offering our support to them as well,” Castro said.

The university president also issued a letter of concern in which he responded to the President Trump’s order, saying the campus will offer “unwavering” support to the students who are from the countries affected by the ban.

“When I was appointed in August of 2013, on my first day in office I promised that I would serve every student, faculty, staff, alumni, friend,” Castro said. “This executive order unfortunately has a very serious impact on the lives of our students and faculty and staff who are affected. That’s why I expressed my concerns.”

Castro said, immediately after President Trump signed the order on Jan. 27, he met with his cabinet over the weekend to examine what potential impact it would bring to the university. He joined California State University Chancellor Timothy White, 22 other CSU presidents along with the California State Student Association and the CSU Academic Senate in the statement of concern to the president.

Castro also said he will continue to stay in touch with local elected representatives at the state and federal levels. He said he wants students to know the campus provides resources as the order is reviewed and a decision on whether the ban continues or is scrapped is made in court.

“I know it’s stressful for [students, faculty and staff], and I know they may be scared, and I’m very sorry that they are going through this experience,” Castro said. “At the same time, I want them to know they have the full support of our administration.”

Castro also pledged to support any efforts by students and faculty or staff to reach out to the community in efforts to reduce misconceptions of the Islamic faith.

The MSA meeting in the Henry Madden Library last Monday brought old and new club members together for the new semester. Noor Al-Hamdani, a public health and nursing senior, attended the meeting and was among a few of the members proposing the club begin to reach out to the community to teach about their religion.

Al-Hamdani’s parents are U.S. citizens, but both were born in the Middle East. Her dad is from Iraq and her mom is from Syria. She said traveling will be tougher for her parents and for family abroad, especially a cousin who lives in Scotland but was born in Iraq and was supposed to visit her in May when she graduates from Fresno State. The president’s order also suspended visa issuance for 90 days to people of the same seven countries.

“He has to apply for a visa, so who knows if he could come,” Al-Hamdani said. “We are not sure, because it’s on his passport where he was born, which was in Iraq. So that has placed a lot of feelings toward my family.”

Trump’s travel ban ordered a travel restriction from citizens of the seven countries for 90 days after the order was issued. Al-Hamdani said her graduation will likely come after the 90 days, but there is still uncertainty as to what will happen.

“I’m sure my graduation will fall [after] those days, [but] there is a high possibility he will not be able to come,” Al-Hamdani said. “I didn’t know what to say. I never thought America would turn this way.”