Harvard University is a community. This community is home to
6 700 15 250
Among them, 9851 come from a different country.
This represents 45% of the student body.
It gives us the opportunity to meet people with different perspectives and lifestories. We probably would not have had this chance otherwise. International students are not so "international" anymore when they come to Harvard. They are Harvard, they live in the same houses and attend the same classes. Most importantly, they become friends.
However, since last November, the diversity that makes Harvard so unique and appealing is in danger. Especially since last Jaunary when Executive Order no 13769 was signed by the newly elected President of the United States. It was the first of two versions of a policy that is now known as
The Travel Ban
Executive Order 13769 barred citizens of 7 middle eastern and african countries from entering the United States for 90 days. It restricted refugee admissions from these countries for 120 days. Unlimited provisions were put on Syria.
The countries targeted were:
Yemen Libya Syria Sudan Somalia Iran Iraq
If the administration and right wing medias keep repeating that the ban is not a muslim ban, it however highly ressembles it as all the countries targeted are home to a majoriyt of muslims. Hence, the Trump administration is choosing who can access the United States by discriminating on religious beliefs. The order gave triggered unprecedented resistance from independent judges, the general public and elected officials. It was harshly criticized both at the national and international levels. Protests were held at international airports, with hundreds crying to "let them in". Them being the citizens of the banned countries who were stopped at border control stations and could not enter the United States. Some of them where students, others were scholars. Others were refugees with their families waiting on the other side.
This policy targets all communities. It hits home, it hits Harvard as well, and some of our friends.
There are 98 students coming from the countries targeted by the first version of the travel ban. 97are touched by the second version of the policy. The breakdown goes as follows:
We must not forget the human faces behind those numbers. Chances are, we have probably crossed the path of these students at some point, without even knowing it. But let's not forget those who do not have the chance to be in such a caring community as Harvard either. For those who do not have a voice, and cannot be heard, we must also stand.
"I am an American of yemeni descent and I am a dual citizen. My parents are from Yemen and my extended family is still in Yemen.
I have lots of family who wanted to study here and had hopes."
"Along with this ban comes more uncertainty at the border, and a level of dehumanization comes with this government. It is made legal. It was a reality before, but it was not codified. It is now explicit rethoric. There is now an explicit dehumanization of muslims that are viewed as a threat to the world."
"I think people have fears that it could get very bad, if a terrorist attack was to happen. That would be the worst and everything would change in that calculus. It think people are worried about that. Chaos. But in the long run, i think we have people in the White House that have a very specific vision of what America should be and they think people like me are antagonist to this vision. and I don’t believe that, and i will fight them and their ideologies."
"I think we have to be very self critical about us and our own people. When I say 'my people' I think of northeastern progressive and liberal people. I think we should be very critical, and understand how we are contributing to oppression and exclusion. Our airports are the worst. We like immigrants when they are smart, we like them when they are MIT students or scholars. But do we value the lives outside of education? What about small business owners? In terms of dehumanization are we going to contribue by saying « oh no, I know one muslim who goes to harvard ». What about the muslim who is a cab driver, are we going to stand up for him? those are the people who have family at home and are unprotected."
"27 January of the new year marked the day that this great country, which was built by immigrants upon immigrants, no longer wanted to tolerate the basic freedoms that humans were entitled to. The executive orders signed that day by the new president symbolised an abuse of power and a negligence of humanity."
"Currently, I have several cousins scattered across Europe because they were forced to flee Syria. They are about the same age as my parents were when they first arrived to the US. But today, they are not welcome. They are painted as hostile foreigners. Today, America has chosen to push them away, to force upon them arduous days clouded by fear and the uncertainty of where they will find their next home."
"I believe that this ban is un-American, unjust, and harmful towards our democracy. The media has been factually portraying most of the elements of the ban, but Americans should also become aware of the realities that surround it: families could be torn apart, the rhetoric spurred in the US can cause an increase in hate crimes, and emotions will and have escalated. It's unrealistic to keep this unconstitutional ban; we cannot patiently wait and see what will come in our future, but rather fight and stand up for what's right."
"The ban is certainly emotionally damaging as the very premise of it is basically that citizens from the banned countries are useless, hence do not deserve to be valued as full humans. However, this does not worry me more than I have already been worried. As someone from an unrecognized State, which is considered part of Somalia- a country that's been ranked among the top five most failed states in the world for more than 10 years now, I am used to being singled out."
"From a practical standpoint, I cannot go outside of the United States to visit my family or travel to elsewhere for educational purposes (again, this has not been easy for me to begin with)."
"What worries me the most about the ban is its implications for students like me who are trying to build their future and the future of their families and positively contribute to the development of their countries through education, who will not be able to enter the country under this ban."
"As for the future of this ban, I hope that the policy-makers will understand that the stigmatization of a particular group of people is not in the best interest of America and the world. The ban prevents students who respect American values from entering the country and getting an American education; no one is winning here."
"I came here, thinking that I’m finally at the place I should be. That here, people will know me for “me”. That people would want me for the values that I bring to the society. That people around me would finally be able to see my “true self”, the one I worked my ass off to achieve, rather than judging me based “not being a good muslim, not wearing my hijab, being “too ambitious” for a girl, etc.”."
"Today, I feel like I’m losing my self-image. Each day, each moment, I’m being reminded that I’M AN IRANIAN, AND THAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. That it doesn’t matter that you’re a fuckign architect, that it doesn’t matter if you’re a good person, if people love you, if you’re being successful—working, teaching, etc—that ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THESE MATTER, because you’re an Iranian. At the end, you’re just an Iranian. You’re from one of “Those Countries”. That your dad has just bullshitted you throughout your life telling you that you can “become the person you want”, and that the America of 1.5 years ago lied to you that it would judge you based on your merits and what you bring."
"I feel like am looking at a mirror that I’ve never looked at before. I’ve never defined myself the way I’m being defined at this moment of time in this country. I always tried to listen to my dad, to make that fucking self-image. But now- the mirror has changed. None of those can be seen anymore.
Now, I’m just an Iranian Muslim Woman. And I can’t recognize this person."