President Donald Trump caused widespread panic among travelers this weekend after signing an executive order that permanently banned all Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. and temporarily suspended refugee admissions into the country from seven Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The controversial ban has since had far-reaching effects on Muslim immigrants living in the United States, as well as those fleeing violence and persecution back home. Yet, the stories of Muslim students studying at America’s historically Black colleges and universities who’ve been impacted by the newly imposed travel ban have remained largely ignored.
Several detainees have since been cleared to enter the country, thanks to an emergency stay on the ban issued by a federal judge on Saturday, Jan. 28, but several still remain in limbo. Such is the case for Clark Atlanta University Ph.D. candidate Reham Noaman, who remains stuck in Saudi Arabia as a result of Trump’s ban.
As a third-year doctoral student studying Education Leadership at CAU, Noaman possesses a valid F1 non-immigrant student visa, which legally allows her to attend school in the United States, according to Clark Atlanta Media Relations Manager Mario Boone. He explained that Noaman, who hails from Yemen, is exhaustively vetted by the Dept. of State and Homeland Security each and every semester before her visa is renewed. She’d recently returned home for that purpose but was caught in the backwash of Trump’s executive order. Noaman’s sister, who attends a neighboring university, also was barred from returning to Atlanta.
“We are working with her professors to find alternative ways for her to continue studies as she is very close to completing her doctorate,” Boone wrote in an email. “We are hopeful this is resolved soon.”
Clark Atlanta was recently named one of the most diverse HBCU’s in the U.S. after enrolling a record number of international students from 21 countries across the world, according to a Jan. 16, press release. A whopping 87 percent of international students (both undergraduate and graduate) enrolled at the Atlanta university are from Saudi Arabia, with other students hailing from nations like China, India, Nigeria and Yemen, among others.
“International students provide enriching opportunities for the CAU community to broaden individual perspectives and enhance learning experiences on cultures, languages, religions and customs, which might be new or different,” said Gwen Wade, director of International Programs at CAU. “I’ve always valued interactions with international students and visitors. I sincerely believe students who have the ability to interact with people of different ethnicities and worldviews enhance their understanding of the global community we share.”
CAU’s number of international students has almost doubled over the past three years from the 167 international students enrolled during fall semester of 2014. The swell in international students has since prompted the university to increase its resources in order to accommodate the influx, the press release stated.
“I feel at home,” Yakuba Adderly, a junior business major from the Bahamas, said. “I feel a sense of belonging. I feel more welcome here than at other colleges.”
There’s currently no word on Noaman’s status or whether she will be allowed to continue her studies in the United States in the coming months.
Atlanta Black Star reached out Florida A&M University regarding the impact Trump’s ban has had on their international students. University officials said they’re still working to determine how their students, faculty and staff have been affected by the executive order, but advised its approximately 200 international students to refrain from traveling to the seven countries for the next 90 days.
“The FAMU community encourages careful consideration of the effects the executive order will have on the U.S. higher education and research community, as FAMU students, faculty and staff are often involved in ongoing education, research, and service projects in the international arena,” Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. said in a press release Monday, Jan. 30.
“We stand ready to assist in offering solutions to support and strengthen the higher education and research community in light of the recent changes to U.S. foreign travel and immigration policy,” Robinson continued.
ABS also reached out to Howard University for their take on the immigration ban but haven’t heard back yet.