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OPINION: What I want my American friends to know about the Muslim ban

Ali Sidiki, Reader Engagement Director

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I’m scared.

And to be completely honest, I don’t get scared easily. But the aftermath of the Muslim ban, or rather the “executive order” imposed by President Donald Trump, has shaken me up. This most recent action is worse than him calling us journalists “fake.”

I knew things would get bad after the election, and although I mentally prepared for what was about to come, I really wasn’t ready. The implementation of the ban was a kick in my stomach. The country that opened its arms to me, the country that I now call my home, was telling me that I wasn’t welcome here anymore; it was telling me that I was worthless. Not just me of course, but the thousands of other Muslims living here peacefully.

I’ve had a lot of feelings since Saturday when reading about immigrants’ stories online and students who have been detained at airports, unable to go back to college for the spring semester. It all seemed too real. I arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on January 22, just a week before this fiasco. Had I arrived a week later, I don’t know what would’ve happened.

Although my country, Pakistan, has not been placed on the list yet, rumor has it that senior White House officials believe it should be added. Regardless, had I arrived back in the States after the ban was in place, airport officials wouldn’t have looked at the color of my passport; they would’ve looked at the color of my skin.

It’s different when you hear about these things. You’re aware it’s happening, but then you go back to your daily life. It’s discomforting when you stop and think, “Wow, this is most likely going to happen to me.”

The point of me writing this isn’t solely about me being scared. It is also about making my American friends aware of the reality of this situation, or rather educating them a little about international students.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Your international student-friend is most likely on a student visa. A student visa allows international students to stay in the country until they complete their studies from the college they’re attending.

2. Most countries from the Middle East and South Asia require a visa for all travelers. It’s not like citizens of these countries can hop on a plane and go to another country. They need to apply for a visa and wait to get accepted or rejected.

3. This said ban affects all international students, regardless of their visa status, especially if they’re not in the country during this particular time.

4. Saying things like, “Why don’t you just reapply?” is insensitive. It doesn’t work like that. Most international students are in the country legally on valid visas.

5. International students already go through “extreme vetting.” From the time they apply until the time they land in the States, it doesn’t stop. They are vetted every time we fly, even when its into the same country a second or third time. I have been searched multiple times, questioned and seated in separate rooms for hours. It’s not easy, and though it’s unfortunate, most of us are used to it.

6. According to the U.S Department of Commerce, international students contributed more than $30.5 billion to the economy in 2015. We bring in the money.

7. My favorite point: We’re amazing people who contribute to the spreading of different cultures and love all around.

The bottom line is that we’re important. Our voices are important. I don’t need to explain all the great things immigrants in the United States have done. That should not need to be reiterated again and again to highlight the importance of immigrants or people of color. Every life is important, no matter if that person turns out to be the next Steve Jobs or if that person has a GPA of 1.9.

What is happening is unfortunate, and though it may stop my parents from coming to my graduation this summer, as they’re back home in Pakistan, it won’t stop me from doing what I know best: using the power of my words.

Contact the writer: [email protected]

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