Immigration Attorney speaks on recent legislation against immigration


Jack MacDonald/Iowa State Daily

An audience member looks on during Elizabeth S. Van Arkel’s speech on President Trump’s new immigration bans. The Davis Brown Law Firm employee spoke in the Sun Room on Feb. 14, about the immigration laws. 

Nik Heftman

Recent speculation concerning President Donald Trump’s executive orders has left members of Iowa State’s community of international students and scholars uncertain about their future at Iowa State. 

The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) and Dean of Students Office of Iowa State invited Elizabeth Van Arkel, Immigration Attorney from the Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines, to speak Tuesday night as part of an open forum catered to students with concerns regarding changes, new and proposed, in U.S. immigration legislation.

A crowd of about 40 students and faculty gathered in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union for the forum. International students made up the bulk of the audience. Many members of the ISSO office were also in attendance, including Deb Vance, interim director.  

“When we have an immigration attorney here, their knowledge is broader than ours,” Vance said. “We just want to make sure that students had a chance to get those questions answered.”

Arkel opened her presentation by addressing the current executive orders on immigration signed by President Donald Trump.

She mentioned the riveting travel ban, signed Jan. 27, that banned travel from seven countries. She also briefly addressed border and interior enforcement that Trump signed before the ban.

Arkel continued by reminding the audience that on Thursday, a federal panel of appeals refused to uphold the travel ban.

“International travel is very risky right now,” Arkel said. “If you can avoid it, that would be our recommendation.“

Following that statement, an audience member asked if Arkel’s advice was for international students from countries who were or weren’t affected by the ban.

“It’s not all encompassing, but we advise you to not travel,” Arkel said. “There’s likely to be delays, and there are issues regarding visa interviews.”

According to Arkel, foreign nationals that are not subject to the travel ban are lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and dual nationals from the affected countries. 

Arkel advised international students who were not from the seven countries that there could be potential delays in visa appointments worldwide and that they should expect additional scrutiny at visa interviews.

“If you have anything in your past, like a crime, you should consult with immigration counsel,” Arkel said.

President Trump’s proposed border wall between Mexico and the United States was another topic of discussion. Arkel said that her office is still unsure on the structure of the wall and how it will be funded.

“The cost of avocados might go up, but I’ll still buy them because I enjoy them,” Arkel said.

Her statement was met with laughter from the audience. She proceeded by warning the audience of stricter enforcement of laws pertaining immigrants in the United States, which include an increase in the number of detention centers and questionable scrutiny at traffic stops.

“They could pull you over for not wearing your seatbelt and ask for your papers with no probable cause,” Arkel said.

Arkel mentioned several initiatives that the Trump administration may have on the horizon, including a plan endorsed by new Attorney General Jeff Sessions that would see the federal defunding of “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

It’s like saying fine, if you go against us, you’re on your own,” Arkel said.

She closed the first half of her presentation with an educational bit on how a bill becomes a law in the United States.

Her presentation concluded with several slides explaining the immigration process. She also gave several pieces of advice to the international students looking to obtain a green card and work in the U.S.