In a statement on Sept. 24, 2017, the Trump administration announced a newly revised travel ban, which will affect members of the UNO community.
The new ban restricts travel to varying degrees for eight countries around the world: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. It will take effect on Oct. 18, 2017.
“It just makes me feel reluctant to say that I am Middle Eastern. I am not ashamed about that part of my identity. I just feel that I have to actively obscure that part of me to … secure my own safety,” said Deena Keilany, a Syrian-American junior at UNO. “I realize that people of my nationality are not welcome here, or at least it feels that way.”
Syrian citizens will not be able to come to the United States under the new law, regardless of family connection.
Fadumo Abshir, a Somali refugee and junior at UNO, said the travel ban makes her feel like she is different, as if she doesn’t belong in the United States because its people seem to be pushing her and others like her away.
“What makes America, America is that we all come from different countries. It’s different ideas that makes America, America,” said Abshir.
Somalians will not be able to come to the United States as immigrants under the new law. Nonimmigrants will face enhanced screening and vetting requirements.
“America [doesn’t] realize it, but they give a lot of hope to kids … They would choose here over any other place,” said Abshir. “And if [the ban] becomes a reality … a lot of people will become hopeless. And that is not what America is. America is hope. America is freedom. And America provides that to everyone.”
This is the third travel ban that the administration has implemented using an executive order.
The first was announced in January 2017, but was struck down by federal courts soon after. The second was released in March 2017, allowing only immigrants with a “bona fide” to U.S. citizens to come, which the courts ruled to not include extended family members beyond aunts, uncles and grandparents.
This was problematic for Keilany’s family during her brother’s recent funeral.
“In Middle Eastern culture, your extended family is very, very close to you … [but] they aren’t able to come here because they don’t have a ‘bona fide’ relationship with us … They watched my brother grow up … but now that my brother’s gone … they couldn’t come to see him, to see my family during this time.”
The new ban varies the severity of the restrictions depending on the country, scraps the exception for those who have a “bona fide” relationship and dropped Sudan from the list of affected countries, adding Venezuela and North Korea in its place.
The recent ambiguity in immigration law has been problematic for the family of Abshir, too.
“Someone from my close family … her mom is getting a little bit older and she was back home … so she wanted her mom to come here. She spent a lot of money … from the DNA, to the [health check], the fingerprint, including the ticket,” said Abshir. “And [at] the last minute before she could get a visa, the ban happened and it had to be dropped … She hadn’t seen [her mom] in … 20 years.”
More effective national security policies would include putting “more money and resources into creating more multicultural messages of inclusiveness to reach naturalized immigrants or American-born ethnics or religious minorities,” said Danielle Battisti, Ph.D., an assistant professor for U.S. Immigration & Ethnic History, U.S. Foreign Relations and Modern America.
“I never thought that I would get [an] education ever,” said Abshir. “And a lot of people take [it] for granted but I don’t. I take it seriously … and every day I get up being grateful.”
The travel ban decreases the ability for Omaha to accept refugees and the community revitalization they offer as the city has experienced in the past, said Battisti.
“I love Omaha and I love the United States in general. I love the people and the communities that I am involved in,” said Keilany.
The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it would also scale back the amount of refugees to 45,000 – the lowest in decades, according to CNN.
“We have opportunity here, so let’s not be selfish. Let’s give it away to those who need it most,” said Abshir. She suggests to students to take advantage of UNO’s study abroad programs to gain a different point of view.
To support people like Keilany and Abshir, students can donate and volunteer for organizations such as Lutheran Family Services and the Refugee Empowerment Center, along with participating in public protest via social media and physical events.
“I don’t think that recognizing our differences further divides us in any way … It doesn’t undermine the interconnectedness of our humanity,” said Keilany.