President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday, Jan. 27, that restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — suspends all refugee admission for 120 days and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely. On Monday, Jan. 29, University President Jay Gogue and Provost Timothy Boosinger released a statement to students recommending that students, faculty, staff or dependents who might be affected by Trump’s order refrain from travel outside the U.S. until further notice as “you may be denied reentry into the country.”
“Auburn is an international university,” the statement reads. “Students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds strengthen our campus, and we remain committed to fostering an environment that upholds our values of inclusion and diversity.”
Auburn currently has 49 students from the affected countries.
“We are not aware of any students who are currently traveling and/or being detained or denied re-entry,” said Jennifer Mason, director of international initiatives for the Office of International Programs. “Our immigration advisors are closely monitoring the situation and are a student’s best resource for up-to-date information on any immigration-related question.”
The Plainsman spoke to four students whose lives have been changed by the order.
Hamidreza Ahady Dolatsara
Hamidreza Ahady Dolatsara wasn’t surprised when President Trump announced his executive order on immigration this week. He was saddened, sure, but not surprised.
“I expected it,” Dolatsara, graduate student in industrial systems and engineering, said. “He said he was going to do it, and he did it.”
Dolatsara moved to Michigan from Iran in 2012. There, he completed his master’s degree in civil engineering.
He moved to Auburn two years later for “the sweet tea and the Ph.D program” – in no particular order.
His parents, sisters and brothers live in Iran. Until last week, they were toying with the idea of visiting their son in the U.S.
“They had a plan, but I’m not sure they do anymore,” Dolatsara said with a laugh.
There’s not long before he graduates, so there’s not much time for Dolatsara to focus on politics.
It gets lonely sometimes, with just his research, and he’d like a visit from his family.
He knows that’s impossible now.
“I don’t want them to worry,” Dolatsara said. “I tell them I’m very busy, so it’s probably best if they don’t come anyway.”
Through it all, Dolatsara is hopeful.
“I know we will soon see a day where America will be great again – by hard work, by innovation and by kindness. Not by breaking people’s hearts.”
Sahar Moghadam and her mother left Iran for the U.S. when she was five years old.
Her grandparents were planning to visit Auburn soon, Moghadam said. They want to see the University their granddaughter loves so much.
“That’s been the hardest thing to grapple with,” Moghadam said. “I haven’t seen them in years, and now I don’t know when I’m going to be able to see them again.”
Moghadam, senior in microbiology, said it took her a few days to fully grasp the severity of the executive order.
“You know how you’re used to hearing so many news stories a day? Most of them are somewhere else in the world and don’t affect you,” Moghadam said. “After a few days I thought, ‘This affects me.’ Then I realized, ‘Wait a minute – this is about me.”
Moghadam is in a strange spot: she’s Iranian but was raised as an American. In some ways, she’s stuck between two worlds.
“Because I was raised in America, I don’t really feel like an outsider,” Moghadam said. “I know I don’t feel the way students coming directly from Iran feel. I still feel some tension, especially when I hear people talk about certain policies. They talk about these things like they don’t apply to anybody they know. It affects me, though. That’s what I wish people knew.”
He got to know his fiancé the way many people do – online. They flirted a bit through social media, but their relationship quickly became serious.
Soon, they were deeply in love. The couple decided to marry after their families met and approved of the union.
The wedding plans were set in motion: he would resume his studies in Alabama and she would fly to the U.S. a few weeks later. They were going to wed in Auburn.
The president’s executive order brought their upcoming nuptials to a screeching halt.
“My love is somewhere, and I am here,” he said through a translator. “I am very depressed. She is very depressed.”
Time will tell what’s next for the couple.
They might move back to Iran. Or, they could pack up and head to Canada.
Canadians are welcoming Iranians with open arms, he said.
For now, all they can do is wait.
Amany Elmogahzy, graduate student in communications, is Egyptian. Egypt is not one of the seven countries affected by the order, but Elmogahzy fears her home country could be targeted next.
“Whether or not you have a green card status, a visa or if you are a citizen, there is a fear that’s starting to appear in the Muslim community,” Elmogahzy said. “It’s only those seven countries right now, but who knows, tomorrow Egypt could be added to that list. That could affect me being able to see my family.”
She’s most concerned, however, about the ban’s possible repercussions right here on U.S. soil.
“After you see these executive orders get passed, there are retaliations against Muslim-Americans,” Elmogahzy said. “In Texas, a mosque was just set on fire.”
Elmogahzy also pointed out the recent terror attack at a mosque in Quebec – a Trump supporter is suspected of killing six people and injuring eight.
“This affects us,” Elmogahzy said. “I could be killed in my place of worship.”
*Editor’s note: The Plainsman adheres to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. We believe the public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability. However, considering the current contentious political climate in the U.S., this student fears for his safety and that of his fiance. Because of his concerns, we honored his request.