WMU international students await decision on travel ban

Executive order that halted travel from 7 nations being reviewed by appeals court


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — International students in West Michigan are wondering what President Donald Trump’s travel ban will mean for them if upheld by the courts.

Western Michigan University graduate student Salem Ba Saiwar says the executive order, if it is reinstated, may force him to make a difficult choice.

“I felt like I had to choose between my education or being there with my family,” Ba Saiwar said.

He was supposed to return home to Saudi Arabia the week after the executive order was signed.

“I was really shocked. It threw all my plans into chaos,” he said.

The travel ban is currently on hold and being considered by a federal appeals court. It’s not yet known precisely when the court will issue a ruling.

The stakes of that decision are high for Ba Saiwar. Even though he was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, he said he and his family aren’t citizens there because of the way Saudi Arabian citizenship works. Instead, they hold visas and the entire family has to be in Saudi Arabia to renew those visas. That means that Ba Saiwar has to go back for his family — but whether he’ll be able to return to the U.S. is in question.

Ba Saiwar is actually a citizen of Yemen because his father is from there. Yemen is among seven nations from which all travel was halted for 90 days under the executive order.

WMU has 92 students from those seven countries, which also include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

“We all have the same feeling towards that, that it’s unfair,” Ba Saiwar said.

“There’s a lot of misinformation. There’s a lot of fear and wondering if this is this just the start and maybe something else will be coming down the line,” said Jane Blyth, the executive director of WMU’s Haenicke Institute for Global Education.

The institute serves as a resource for international students and study abroad programs.

Blyth said that when news of the executive order came down, the institute held meetings with international students to give them clarity on what it could mean for their future at WMU.

“A student wouldn’t be able to travel home to see family during the summer break, for example. The family members wouldn’t be able to come here to visit,” Blyth said.

“What’s going to happen? Is it going to continue like that? I’m not from the U.S., so is it going to happen to me?” Eric Carlo, who is from the Dominican Republic, wondered.

Even though the ban doesn’t include the Dominican Republic, Carlo said it is raising concerns for other international students.

Housing is offered during the summer to all students and international students would have that option if they chose to stay. Counseling services are also available.