Shared Voices: Two Weeks After The Presidential Travel Ban

It’s been two weeks since President Donald Trump banned travelers from seven countries from entering the United States.

Trump’s decision to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority middle eastern countries has started to show it’s damage in numbers. A statement from the U.S. State Department said approximately 60,000 visas have been revoked from people originating in countries on the travel ban list.

For the most part, members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation have supported the president, though some have expressed conflicting thoughts on the matter.

Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole, R-Moore, said the threat the president’s ban seeks to contain is real. “Critics have described the order as a Muslim ban. It is not. It does not impact over 40 Muslim-majority countries,” Cole said in a prepared statement.

Republican U.S. Senator James Lankford said he encouraged the president’s staff to evaluate American policy with an eye on both “security and compassion for the refugees” fleeing the terrors of war and persecution.

Optimized-9ppvned92xe-alessio-lin“America has always welcomed people from different walks of life, religions and countries, and we should continue doing so,” Lankford said.

Others disagree.  Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Oklahomans with ties to the seven countries and Muslims from across the state have condemned the executive order.

“We have fielded hundreds of phone calls, emails, and facebook messages from concerned Oklahoma muslims about traveling internationally, whether they are from these seven countries or not,” Soltani said.

Soltani said he was deeply saddened how any group of people can be demonized. “Whether it be Muslims, immigrants, or refugees for no other reason than to further bar the president’s own brand of hatred and bigotry,” he said.

Soltani has an Irani heritage. He said his chances of seeing his family in Iran, who have never been able to get visas, are now zero.

“It really goes against everything. Every principle, every idea that our country was built upon. We’ve always been a safe haven for immigrants, for refugees,” Soltani said. “We are a country of immigrants.”

Sonia Abarzak, Public Relations Chair of the Muslim Student Association at the University of Oklahoma, said she couldn’t believe the executive order actually happened.

“At first it was a shock. For me, while I am an arab-Muslim American, my country wasn’t one of the banned ones on the list. It was a sigh of relief, but I know so many people that are affected. It’s surreal,” she said.

Abarzak grew up in Piedmont. She said some posts on her Facebook feed supported the ban. “Their whole argument is ‘Well, you lock your doors at night,’ and it’s really not the same thing. These are people who have already gone through questioning and everything,” she said.

While returning or visiting home has ceased to be an option for thousands of immigrants and permanent residents, but Abarzak said she still finds hope in the countless efforts and goodwill of people resisting the ban. “While this is something to worry about, it’s sort of comforting knowing that not only people are protesting, but people have provided legal assistance like the American Civil Liberties Union and CAIR have our back,” she said.

Pakistani native and Abdul Qadar, who is studying at OU, said the president’s ban has sparked fear in his family. “A lot of my family are green card holders,” he said. “All of them are rushing to get back into the United States before the ban gets put on our country, too.”

Qadar has family members still in the process of obtaining their visas to enter the country.

“I have an uncle who has actually applied for a visa and he’s very close to getting it. Knowing that he might not be allowed to come in purely because of who he prays to and his nationality really hurts,” he said.

Qadar said he valued his opportunities and the risk his parents took when they moved to America. “Seeing kids and families be deprived of the opportunities I was given. That hurts me. This is not what America is about. I love America I’m an American first,” he said. “If someone told my parents thirty years ago when they immigrated here that they weren’t allowed here because of their religion or their nationality, right now I’d be somewhere in a poor little village working twelve hours a day just to make a meal for myself and my family.”

For many immigrants there is the potential of more countries being added to the list.

In an interview on “Face The Nation,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said “You can point to other countries that have similar problems like Pakistan and others — perhaps we need to take it further.”

On Tuesday, a federal court held hearings on the travel ban’s constitutionality. A ruling is expected soon.

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