More than 60 people gathered for a teach-in organized by Boise State on Friday, Feb. 3, to speak with a panel of local refugee experts to answer questions and concerns regarding Trump’s recent executive order on immigration.
During President Donald Trump’s first week in office, he signed an executive order temporarily barring the entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. According to NPR’s annotation of the executive order, it also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, meaning no refugees will be resettled in the United States from any country during that time.
The order is officially titled, “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorists’ entry into the United States”. While the intention of the order is to improve the United States’ safety from terrorists, some people do not believe it will.
“The people who make it through this extraordinarily thorough and long vetting process are the ones who are fleeing the violence. Frankly, if you wanted to get into the U.S. and do something bad, there are so many easier ways to do so,” said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, director of the International Rescue Committee’s Boise office and panel member at the teach-in.
The countries banned include Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely. Following the signing of this executive order, individuals impacted by the ban were detained and rejected access to U.S. airports.
According to Greg Hahn, associate vice president of the Office of Communication and Marketing, there are more than 40 students on record from the seven countries listed in the executive order. Most of these students are either permanent residents or refugees, and others are on student visas. A few students were directly affected by the executive order, while others are left unsure of their future.
“Nearly all of the students are currently here in the United States,” Hahn said in an email. “But we know of a very small number who either are abroad and in jeopardy of returning, or who may not be able to finish their study abroad as it is unclear whether they will be able to return when (the executive order) ends.”
According to Hahn, details about these specific students and their situations cannot be disclosed due to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
One of the attendees of the executive order teach-in was Refik Sadikovic, a doctoral student who teaches University Foundations, Bosnian 101 and other courses about refugees. Sadikovic arrived in Idaho 17 years ago as a refugee fleeing war in Bosnia.
“I am Bosnian-American. I succeeded in my life, and I am happy,” Sadikovic said. “But should I stop caring about other people in the world who are still experiencing similar things that I experienced? I can’t. I can’t stop caring, I can’t let them suffer more.”
Sadikovic is an involved member of the refugee community in Boise. He co-founded the Boise State Refugee Alliance and serves on a number of boards and committees in Boise related to refugee resettlement.
“I know many refugees from Iraq and Somalia. It’s pretty hard for them to think about this country stopping them from going to see their families, or even leaving the U.S. It’s almost like being in prison,” Sadikovic said.
The executive order addresses the current procedures for visa-issuance and admittance of refugees, stating that these processes have not been successful in preventing terrorist attacks.
According to a report by the Cato Institute in September, the chances of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion per year, and one in 10.9 billion per year for illegal immigrants.
“To me, I don’t see a safety issue because there are not facts that point that direction—real facts. If I saw a safety issue, I would think the 120 days is reasonable, but I don’t see any safety issues,” Sadikovic said.
All students, faculty and staff received a letter from President Kustra addressing the recent executive order and what it means for Boise State. At the teach-in, Tzul addressed some questions regarding the potential weakness of his letter and how Boise State should move forward.
“You’ve got an incredibly powerful voice with President Kustra. Any advocacy to make him more forward with direct statements would be awesome,” Tzul said.
The ban was blocked by a federal judge on Friday, Feb. 3. A legal battle is continuing to be fought over the executive order and its constitutionality.