The nations under discussion for the expanded measure include Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. Currently, the executive order in place limits or bars travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea, the majority of which have a Muslim-majority population.
Henri Barkey, an international relations professor, said this potential travel ban expansion is part of President Donald Trump’s overall policy to reduce immigration.
Barring immigration from these specific countries primarily affects people who desire to legally immigrate to the United States, Barkey said. The vast majority tend to travel via aircraft, something that is relatively easy to control.
“They are coming here to become American citizens and, presumably, this is something that you would welcome,” Barkey said. “The people who tend to immigrate, especially when coming from across the sea, tend to be the best and the brightest…so it’s a loss for the U.S.”
As of fall 2019, there are 1,555 international students studying at Lehigh, 430 of which are undergraduates, according to a report from the Office of International Students and Scholars. The highest-represented countries are China, India, and Iran who have 630, 73, and 31 students, respectfully.
Samba Dieng, the director of the Office of International Students and Scholars, said there has been an overall drop in the enrollment numbers of international students over the last three years, led by a 17 percent decrease in graduate students since 2015. There has, however, been a gradual increase in the number of international undergraduate students in the same timeframe.
“I am not saying that this drop should be attributed to the travel ban or current administration,” Dieng said. “Students are beginning to find themselves having more options.”
Dieng said countries like China are beginning to welcome more international students. China is currently the second-most popular destination for international students from Africa, a position that the United States had held until recently, he said.
In response to the increasing tensions between the United States and Iran, the Office of International Students and Scholars sent an email to Iranian students extending its support and offering them resources.
He said as of now, no students have reached out to discuss their uneasiness toward current American policies regarding immigration, but believes some international students still may feel uncomfortable.
“It could be unnerving to be a foreign national to a place like Iran and to find yourself in the middle of diplomatic feuds between the U.S. and your home country,” Dieng said. “It would be unnerving to anybody.”
Hassan Al Khawaldeh, ‘21, is an international student from Jordan. He had visited the United States prior to choosing where to attend college and was certain that he wanted to go to school in the U.S.
He said he has not felt different or uncomfortable being an international student, despite increasing regulations against immigrants and increasing tension in the current political climate.
“I am still very happy that I chose to (attend university) in the U.S. rather than anywhere else,” he said.
Barkey said that if President Trump is re-elected, it is likely that restrictions on immigration policies will continue.
In a country like the United States, where the growth in population is leveling off, immigrants are important to a growing economy, he said.
“Immigrants tend to be hard workers and therefore, by increasing immigration restrictions, the U.S. is losing out,” Barkey said.