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Trump travel ban results in some uncertainty for WMU international students

Hossein Sahour is one of many Iranian students at Western Michigan University concerned about the temporary travel ban.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Summer travel plans may be on hold for some in West Michigan and for that matter, around the world.

This comes from the uncertainty behind the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing part of the Trump administration’s temporary travel ban to resume.

The temporary travel ban affects six countries--Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. And because part of ban has been reinstated for now, that means uncertainty for many students from these countries studying right here in the U.S.--some who say they hoped to eventually become citizens.

Since the temporary travel ban was announced, Western Michigan University administrators say they've seen a 13% drop in international applicants at the undergraduate level, and a 46% drop at the the graduate level.

WMU grad student, Hossein Sahour, an Iranian national, says he's been anxious about the temporary ban since it was announced in January.

Sahour says the reasons he chose to study in the United States are now at odds with a policy that he considers discriminatory.

"I came here because I like this country...I like the values this country was based upon," he said.

His confidence in those values, however, are being tested by the Supreme Court, which recently decided to allow part of the travel ban to resume after a halt from lower courts.

"I couldn’t believe that, it was really frustrating," Sahour said.

The justices decided the ban should not be enforced against those who quote "have a credible claim of a bona-fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S.," like students or those with family in the U.S.

But still, Sahour says he's worried and skeptical, not knowing what to expect next.

"I think that the vagueness in the current restrictions makes it even more difficult," he said.

In a phone interview with the I-Team, Cooley Law professor Curt Benson says the forthcoming final ruling on the ban could change things.

"The case has not been tried, nobody has determined the case on its merits, they're simply right now arguing over an injunction," he explained.

And Hossein Sahour isn't alone. Elahe Honarvar is a WMU grad student as well from Iran--her family canceled its trip to the U.S. as a result of the uncertainty.

The same goes for Hossein’s family, as a result of the temporary travel ban, there are no trips to the U.S. on the horizon.

Now, while he waits for a final Supreme Court decision, his plans in the U.S. are overwhelmed by the uncertainty of what might happen next.

"When I came here, I really wanted to stay, but now my future is very vague and I don’t know if I have any future in this country," he said.

Administrators at Western Michigan University say there's definitely a change in the perceptions of those who want to study in the United States.

"The feeling is that the U.S. is not as welcoming as once was," said WMU Director of International Admissions, Juan Tavares.

Tavares emphasized that the temporary travel ban announced by President Trump was one of three factors leading to a drop in applicants.

"The dollar is strong, so sometimes that influences things...and other countries like Saudi Arabia and Brazil are changing their approach and not sending as many students," he said, referencing factors aside from the temporary travel ban.

Tavares didn't mince words, however, about WMU's increasingly difficult efforts at attracting international students in the face of such intense political rhetoric.

"This administration [Trump] has made my job more difficult," he said. "There's less interest in applying to U.S. universities."

A final Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the temporary travel ban is expected at some point in the Fall.



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