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Buttons given out at Thursdays teaching forum include the UNM logo and the Iranian flag. 

Buttons given out at Thursdays teaching forum include the UNM logo and the Iranian flag. 

After travel ban, Iranian Student Association provides info to students at teach-in

There were more people than seats at an Iranian Student Association-organized teach-in Thursday to help international students understand the effects and status of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, as well as their rights and the work being done in Albuquerque to support them.

Micah McCoy, the communications director for American Civil Liberties Union New Mexico; Linda Melville, a representative of the Global Education Office; and Sammia Assad from the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice formed the panel.

Parya Nickbeen, a graduate student and head of the ISA, hosted the event.

The executive order — issued in late Jan. 27 — has received much criticism for its implementation and wording, and has been accused of essentially being a Muslim ban.

The temporary restraining order, recently appealed by the Department of Justice, was dealt another defeat on Thursday afternoon when a federal appeals court refused to reinstate the ban.

As has become customary for Trump a few weeks into his presidency, he delivered a rebuke to the decision on Twitter soon after, writing “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

Melville said international students are important to the U.S. economy, as higher education is the fifth largest service export in the U.S. Institutions want international students to feel welcome, he said.

UNM has 1,500 international students. Among them are five of the seven countries specifically listed on the ban, Melville said, including Iran, which is among the most-represented foreign countries at UNM.

Some students are afraid they won’t be able to complete their education, she said, while students from other countries like China have also voiced concerns that they’ll be added to the list of countries banned.

McCoy said that, while Trump’s administration has stated that the order is not a Muslim ban, the ACLU believes they have a good case due to the president’s explicit campaign promises that included putting Muslims on a national registry.

The ACLU currently has three successful lawsuits related to the ban, he said, adding that the order is fundamentally un-American.

Melville clarified that the order revokes visas from the seven countries named in the ban (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen), but that is currently blocked by the restraining order.

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However, the order does still affect all visa holders in the United States because it reinstates in-person interviews for renewing visas.

This doesn’t actually affect most of the people from those seven countries as most of them already have gone through the process, Melville said. Because of this, international students should expect travel delays. UNM is advising that students from those countries don’t leave the country until they have more information.

Melville explained that the order is designed to give the government time to re-evaluate the visa process.

At the end of the 90-day ban, the government will report back on changes to the visa process and the kind of information it wants to collect before people are issued visas, along with a list of countries that don’t meet that list.

If those countries do not comply then no visas will be issued to citizens of those countries, she said.

Melville said there is no stoppage of applications for changing visas, so students can still apply for work visas or student work provisions.

However, there are drafts of potential future executive orders that may impact work visas or student work provisions posted online.

Every ACLU office across the country has also filed a freedom of information request to see if the ban is still being implemented by border patrol during the stay, McCoy said.

After 9/11 there was a Muslim registry which has since been phased out, but Trump will likely bring it back, he said, and the ACLU is training volunteer lawyers in case a registry is created, noting that the previous registry led to many deportations.

Assad said she is a Muslim American activist who believes in the system, but that it’s still important to stand up and say that the order is not right.

She said that, traditionally, the Muslim community has strayed away from the role of activism, because they just want to live peacefully. But now is the time to be active.

While Melville said many students have voiced concerns about their ability to participate in protests, McCoy made it clear that the U.S. Constitution only restricts non-citizens from voting and running for office, and their rights to free speech and religion are protected by the Constitution.

While non-citizens have the right to express their political opinions online, McCoy said it is possible that the government will illegally discriminate against people based on their online posts, adding that people should encrypt their electronic communications and make sure their phone and laptop are password protected.

Assad said people should protect themselves by knowing their rights and communicating with others as to where they are.

McCoy said that those traveling from Las Cruces — which has a border patrol checkpoint outside the city on I-25 north — shouldn’t have issues, but it’s important for non-citizens to have all of their documents going through those checkpoints.

Melville said there should be no issues traveling within the U.S. on domestic flights, but, again, it is important to have all documents.

Nickbeen said the Iranian Student Association plans to hold other events similar to Wednesday’s, as it’s important for them to stand up and show they are here.

“When you know that you can get to your family, it’s such a relief, when you are far from them,” Nickbeen said. “From the time they stop feel terrified. You feel you are not safe here.”

Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.

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