By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer
Abdul Saadi, assistant professor of Arabic studies, lived in Aleppo, Syria, before coming to the United States in 1990 after receiving a full scholarship from the University of Chicago. He said even back then his chances of getting a visa were 50/50, and it is much harder now.
Saadi said that for the past six or seven years, it has been nearly impossible for the average person in Syria to get a visa, and President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries, including Syria.
Two years ago, Saadi’s sister and her family applied for visas to flee war-torn Aleppo and find safety for their children but were denied.
“I am so thankful I was able to come to the United States when I did, and I am now a U.S. citizen. It is truly a gift from God,” Saadi said.
Trump’s immigration ban halts immigration for 90 days from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also bans all refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely, according to the New York Times.
Saadi has a relative who is a legal green card holder in the United States who went back to Syria a few weeks ago to check on business and family there and is now unable to come back to the United States due to Trump’s executive order.
“He is calling me and calling asking me what to do and if he will be able to come back, but all I can tell him for now is to wait and pray,” Saadi said.
Saadi said he understands the need to vet immigrants, and while this temporary ban is inconvenient for his family, he trusts that it will be worth it in the long run.
“As Syrians, we are looking for hope,” Saadi said. “We are welcome to suffer and share the consequences temporarily for the big welfare of America and to share the bigger goal of the safety of the United States.”
Saadi said his family will mostly be impacted financially and sentimentally by the ban, but there are other families in dire situations that will be hurt much more by the ban, and he thinks those instances should be addressed separately.
“People who finally got a visa, sold everything, purchased a ticket and attempted to come to America and while they were in the air everything changed- that is unacceptable,” Saadi said.
Saadi said he does not believe mass immigration is the solution to Syria’s problems, nor would it be good for America. He said from his perspective, Syrians don’t want to leave their homes – ideally, allies would help create a “safe haven” inside of Syria for refugees to go instead of fleeing to the United States or Europe.
Saadi used to visit Syria every summer but has been unable to for the last four years due to the war.
“We just want peace,” Saadi said. “I have no idea how it will happen, but I can hope and pray that Syria is healed.”
St. Louis senior Anisha Zaman said that, as a Muslim student, sometimes she feels like an outsider, but she didn’t feel alone Monday when she went to her mosque and saw bouquets of yellow flowers laid on the steps.
“As I was walking out of the mosque, an older woman hugged me and said, ‘We love you and you belong here,’ and in that moment, I had never felt so connected to a complete stranger,” Zaman said.
Zaman said Trump’s immigration executive order is very disheartening and it can seem like America doesn’t care about Muslims or other minorities at times, but days like Monday remind her that she is loved and cared for.
“I am just as American as anyone else,” Zaman said. “There are a lot of other people in this country that don’t feel like they are, but when people step up like this, it shows us that people outside of our community care about us, too, even when it doesn’t feel like it.”
Zaman said she is not usually an emotional person, but she cried when a man came to the steps of the mosque with flowers and his young son and said, “I want my son to be part of a better America.”
DeSoto senior Mark Toliver made a last-minute decision to drive to Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport Sunday with a friend to protest the immigration executive order and advocate for the release of refugees being detained at DFW.
“I will always advocate for all human rights,” Toliver said. “I want America to be a leader for the world in human rights, and I don’t feel that banning refugees is a good example to set.”
Toliver said it was empowering to see the refugees being released after hours of protesting.
“Protests are so important,” Toliver said. “This protest helped release a few detainees from imprisonment. Protesting shows the nation that we are here, we care and we are watching. We as citizens can impact change through protests. I’ve seen it happen.”
Toliver said he believes the executive order is unconstitutional, and he hopes Trump will rethink his immigration policies.
“I hope we live up to our name as the land of opportunity and understand that we are a country built on immigrants,” Toliver said. “We should be thanking our immigrants, not shunning them.”
While he understands the legitimate fear of terrorist attacks, Toliver said he does not think banning refugees will help fight terrorism because many terrorist attacks on U.S. soil were carried out by U.S. citizens.
“It becomes a question of necessity. Is it necessary we force policies based on fear, or should we make policies based on results and actual history?” Toliver said.