Iranian students continue to speak out against immigration ban

Iranian grad students hold signs outside of Parks Library on Feb. 2 with messages of love and peace. The students were open to questions from passersby on their thoughts on President Trump’s immigration ban.

Mary Pautsch

Iranian graduate students braved the cold to spread messages of peace and love outside Parks Library on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday marked the second day students took a stand against the Trump administration’s executive order for a halt on immigration and refugees from seven predominantly Islamic countries, including Iran. 

Hoda Gholami, Ph.D. student in computer science, said she stands for peace and love of all people. She held a sign reading, “Love will find its way through all languages on its own.”

“We want to stand up against this ban because many people do not have the same right [as we do],” Gholami said. ‘”I have friends who don’t have the same rights as I do. We’ve been here for a few years. I came in 2013. I obeyed all the rules to get my visa. But now they change the rules, and this change is not easy to adapt to.”

Gholami’s visa is a single-entry visa, meaning she cannot leave the country during her stay. She said before, this was easier to handle, because her friends and family back home in Iran could still come if need be.

Gholami also fears what this will mean for her future. She said she had hopes to earn an internship in the United States.

Now she fears how employers will look at her immigration status and if she can get a job with her visa.

“It will be harder to even find an internship now,” Gholami said. “This big change can affect our futures. I cannot come back once I have left [the United States].”

Bijan Vafaei, graduate student in civil engineering, spoke with Gholami about the strenuous process to obtain a student visa from Iran. His sign read, “Now I have to choose between school & family.”

“We pass very restrictive steps to here,” Vafaei said. “We give many documents to embassy officers. We have been interviewed, and had background checks by the FBI … it takes many months. For me, it took seven months, start to finish, to get here.”

Vafaei and Gholami both said the process to get accepted into an American university was extensive. The application process also had many steps, and students have to be in excellent academic standing to obtain a student visa.

When asked if she believes President Donald Trump’s ban was rooted in any form of prejudice, Gholami said she was not a person of politics.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just respect everyone. Peace is what’s most important in this life.”

Vafaei agreed with Gholami that they are most interested in becoming more educated and lending a helping hand with society’s issues. They said this is the reason they chose to come to the United States in the first place.

“I want to contribute to solving human problems and our world,” Vafaei said. “I mean, one of the creators of Twitter is from Iran. We have many people who are the leaders or companies, scientists.”

Gholami added that they were there, in the cold weather, to spread love.

“If you look at how we have behaved in America … we have many professors and doctors,” Gholami said.”Good people.”

When it comes to the future of the immigration ban, Gholami said she is scared that people will lose care about the issues at hand as time goes on.

“Yes, we are scared,” she said. “But we are not fighting. There are just people, friends, who are the victims of politics.”

Vafaei and Gholami said that commentary from passersby has been supportive. One older gentleman, an immigrant himself, stopped to speak to the students.

“She got lost,” he said. “I got lost 60 years ago. That’s the one difference between us.”

Other students who were born in America came and went to stand with the students throughout the day.

“We are obeying rules. We pay taxes. We are legal. We don’t want any problems,” Vafaei said

A rally in support of students affected by the immigration hold will take place at noon Feb. 9 outside Parks Library.