AUSTIN — Mahya was excited to study at Southern Methodist University. She had her student visa and her plane ticket. She was supposed to arrive in Texas on Wednesday.
But her plans came to an abrupt halt after President Donald Trump issued his executive order blocking immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, including her home of Iran. Instead, Mahya will stay in Paris, where she now studies, and forgo her dreams of coming to the United States to research how social media drives women’s empowerment movements in her home country.
“I was angry, to be honest,” said Mahya, 29, who asked The Dallas Morning News to use only her first name because of the politically sensitive nature of her research. “I didn’t believe it. I was like, ‘It’s not possible’ because I already have my visa and my ticket and everything.”
Mahya is one of the hundreds of students, staff and faculty in Texas affected by Trump’s executive order. SMU has 49 students from the seven affected countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. The order has forced them to choose: Either stay put in the U.S. or risk, like Mahya, being stuck abroad for the foreseeable future.
The University of North Texas has 85 students from the seven countries affected by Trump’s order; the Dallas County Community College District, 47; UT-Dallas, 127; Texas Tech University, 149; and the University of Houston, 280. Schools are advising the students to forgo all foreign travel for the time being.
Out of “an abundance of caution,” UT-Austin is also warning its 110 students and staff from the seven affected countries to not travel and to avoid the Texas-Mexico border because there are checkpoints nearby, school spokesman J.B. Bird said.
Trump signed his executive order just before close of business Friday. The travel ban halts entry to the U.S. for citizens from these seven countries for the next three months. Refugees from Syria are also barred entry indefinitely.
The order has led to widespread confusion and concern as hundreds of refugees, green-card holders and other immigrants were detained at airports across the country over the weekend. At U.S. colleges and universities, where foreign-born scholars and graduate students from across the world convene to exchange ideas and further their research, the response was the same: Our people are here legally and we’ll defend their right to stay.
“Absent legal compulsion, we will not reveal the immigration status, citizenship or national origin of any student,” Rice University President David Leebron said in a prepared statement. “These measures were implemented with a callous indifference to their immediate impact on individuals and their families.”