DU Students Struggle With Executive Order
Campus community helps students following President Trump’s travel ban
For 1,291 international students at the University of Denver, the travel ban executive order signed by President Donald Trump has some of them worried about their future. Of those students, 3 percent are from countries directly impacted by the ban — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
On Thursday, Feb 9, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously with the states of Washington and Minnesota, which sued the federal government over Trump's executive order. The ruling means that refugees and travelers from those countries will still be able to come to the U.S. However, Trump said he plans to continue fighting for the executive order and he could take the matter to the Supreme Court. The situation brings little comfort for the DU students from those seven countries.
“I feel like a prisoner who is not allowed to leave the country but also not allowed to have a visitor,” says doctoral student Rozhin Eskandarpour (MS ’16) who is studying power systems and microgrids at the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science. “It has been four years since I have seen my elderly parents. They had an appointment with the U.S. embassy to get visiting visas, but after this order, the embassy canceled their appointments.”
Eskandarpour is from Iran and is currently permitted to stay in the U.S. as long as she continues to work on her doctorate. However, she is concerned about the future and the possibility of not being allowed back into the country if she visits her parents.
“I am married; I study and work,” she says. “Should I abandon my marriage and education to see my parents one more time? It’s a terrible situation. It is not fair.”
Eskandarpour and other international students have a considerable impact on the Front Range and Rocky Mountain region. More than 11,000 international students are enrolled at higher education institutions across Colorado. They support 5,300 jobs and contribute more than $378 million to the state economy. At DU alone, international students support 1,000 jobs and contribute about $65 million to the state economy.
University administrators are worried that if the uncertainty around the travel ban is not resolved soon, it will have a significant impact on the 2017–18 academic year. DU’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) reports that about 75 graduate-level applications from the seven countries are being vetted. As it happens, Iran represents the third largest population of international students in the United States with 12,300.
While uncertainty remains for Eskandarpour, she takes comfort in knowing the University and engineering school continue to support her. She credits Dean JB Holston with outreach efforts that have done much to address her concerns.
“He has set up meetings where he’s talked with us. He’s invited attorneys to campus to clarify the impact of the ban on international students. He’s brought in counselors to help us overcome this difficulty. He has followed our situation every day, even on weekends,” Eskandarpour says.
In addition, the engineering school has opened a prayer space for students, and twice a week local Middle Eastern restaurants are providing lunches. The University continues to offer resources for anyone who needs questions answered about their immigration status or requires mental health counseling. Eskandarpour says all the efforts help make DU a welcoming environment at a difficult time.
“Although the situation is horrible outside, I feel safe in such an environment.”