As President Donald Trump cracks down on immigration from six predominately Muslim nations, undocumented and international students at Yale have expressed a sense of unease about traveling outside the country over spring break.
“Honestly, we have no clue what to expect next,” said Parth Bhatia ’20, a student from New Delhi. “It feels like [Trump] is making all of this up as he goes. And that really scares those of us who don’t look like Trump’s idea of the average American.”
The majority of Yale students are not immediately affected by Trump’s executive order on travel, which suspends immigration for citizens of Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya and temporarily bars people from these countries from entering the United States. But international students say fear of traveling abroad stems mostly from the uncertainty that their countries could be targeted next.
Bhatia said a number of his friends have already felt the impact of Trump’s moves on immigration. Although India was not included in the original six Muslim-majority countries currently under a immigration ban, Bhatia was not optimistic about the future.
“It really makes you ask the question — are we next?” he said, adding that he believes the odds are becoming increasingly stacked against immigrants looking to move to the United States.
“[Trump] wants an even more selective screening process,“ Bhatia continued. “For a country of over a billion people, like India, ‘selective’ basically means ‘no’ for the vast majority of us.”
Arvin Anoop ’18, an international student from Pakistan, said he seriously considered canceling a trip to Europe a number of times. He received some relief last Monday, when Iraq was removed from the list of countries included in the ban.
Still, he expressed concern at leaving the country.
“It is the uncertainty — the fear of not being able to come back in the middle of junior spring that will loom throughout my vacation and at every border checkpoint,” Anoop said.
Larissa Martinez ’20, an undocumented student who emigrated from Mexico to Texas when she was 13 years old, said she had to take a 30-hour train ride to arrive in New Haven for a summer orientation program at Yale. Martinez said she had no choice but to travel by train, for fear of being detained at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Martinez was unable to see her family for six months, she said, adding that having to spend Thanksgiving break on campus, rather than at home with her family, was a profoundly painful experience.
“I feel like I have all of these opportunities here at Yale but because of my status as an undocumented immigrant, I cannot take advantage of most of them,” she said.
Martinez went on to explain that applying for any job or paid internship would be useless because of her undocumented status. Still, her present concerns extend far beyond jobs and internship opportunities.
One Syrian student interviewed, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of legal repercussions, expressed their frustration with the current immigration process and were shocked at the lack of common sense and compassion in the U.S. immigration system.
“I just want someone to explain to me how my 90-year-old grandmother is a threat to the United States,” the student said. “How could they force a woman of that age to wait another five years, or more, just to grant her permission into this country?”
Ramiz Çolak ’20, an international student from Turkey, said local communities must drown out Trump’s message of intolerance with empathy.
Çolak said that while Trump’s actions may embolden people who are intolerant of foreigners immigrating to the United States, they can also inspire those who are not affected to stand up for neighbors who might be at risk.