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Trump Revises Travel Ban, but US Schools Fret Over Damage

The White House may have removed Iraq from the travel ban list, but the heart of the executive action is intact reflecting a hardening of immigration policy.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   08-03-2017
Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria is among the academics deeply concerned
about the consequences of the travel ban

President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Monday that bans immigration from six Muslim countries, dropping Iraq from January's previous order which inflicted havoc on many, including students and faculty at US universities.

The new measures will temporarily block citizens of Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from obtaining visas. The ban won't apply to existing visa holders or to legal US permanent residents. There are several theories on why Iraq was removed from the revised travel ban list.

Officials told "The New York Times" the administration removed Iraq, a "redaction requested by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who feared it would hamper coordination to defeat the Islamic State." In other words, there were concerns in Washington and Baghdad that the ban would undercut relations with a critical ally in the fight against Islamic State terrorist groups, sometimes known as ISIS.

On the other hand, there were reports of "intensive lobbying" from the Iraqi government which softened Trump. "The pressure from the Iraq officials included a phone call between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on February 10 and an in-person conversation between Abadi and Vice President Mike Pence in Munich on February 18," reported CNN.

US Schools Brace for Fallout

The White House may have relented and removed Iraq from the travel ban list due to push back from the Pentagon and Iraq, but the heart of the sweeping executive action is still intact, reflecting the most significant hardening of immigration policy in generations.

US schools fret Trump's decree, easily interpreted as hostility to the Muslim world beyond America's shores, could cause irreparable harm to US higher education.

Nitin Nohria, dean of faculty at Harvard Business School, and a first-generation immigrant to the US from India, pointed out that the travel ban created "anxiety and confusion" among students about internships and career goals.

"The dampening effects of the ban have become clear very quickly," wrote Nohria to Harvard Business School alumni.

"Students (including a number with citizenship from the listed countries) are questioning their career prospects and wondering whether their families will be able to join them for Commencement, faculty are debating whether they should travel to conduct their research and teaching, class visitors are cancelling their trips, alumni are uncertain whether to return to campus for reunions, and we are concerned that our executive programs — which comprise two-thirds international participants — could see declines in enrollment," added Nohria.

International students at US colleges and universities surpassed one million for the first time during the 2015-16 academic year, according to the "Open Doors Report" published by the Institute of International Education (IIE). They spent $35 billion last year and US schools have become increasingly dependent on that revenue.

"The domino effect of this ban will result in a precipitous decline in international student enrolment from Muslim-majority countries," said Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of interEDGE, a US-based provider of support services for international students.

"It will dramatically reduce the number of international students not only from the countries facing the travel ban, but other Muslim-majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey," added Choudaha.

Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were among the top 15 places of origin for international students in the 2015-2016 academic year, according to the IIE.


Uttara Choudhury is a writer for Forbes India and The Wire. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.



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