President Donald Trump issued a controversial executive order over the weekend triggering widespread opposition. The order temporarily bans refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia from entering the U.S. for 90 days.
But the executive order affects more than just refugees. During a press conference on Monday, Southeast Missouri State University President Dr. Carlos Vargas expressed his concerns for international students affected by President Trump’s executive order.
“With me being actually an immigrant in this country and starting here as an international student many years ago,” Vargas said. “I think I have a sense of the kind of concerns that they have and the anxiety that they have.”
Vargas said although he hasn’t spoken with them personally, university officials have identified and are working with five students that are from the listed countries.
“We wanted to reassure the students that we were going to be doing our best to work with them and try to answer questions and help them understand as much as we can, the latitude that they have in taking action, or making sure that they abide by the law in the present circumstances,” Vargas said.
According to Vargas, the students have expressed some concerns and are trying to figure out what this all might mean for them in the coming days. In an email sent to Southeast faculty, staff and students, Vargas stated the university is “consulting with legal counsel to ascertain legal issues and rights as they pertain to our international students, faculty and staff, and we will reach out to federal and state elected officials as appropriate.”
While the exact number of students affected by this is still unclear, Vargas said they’re estimating that there could be at least 13. Currently, the university has not been made aware of any faculty or staff from the list of countries that could be affected by this.
Enrollment numbers for international students has steadily fallen in the last year. In the fall of 2016, international student enrollment had dropped 12 percent. As of the 2017 spring semester, 883 international students enrolled at the university. Vargas said he doesn’t want to speculate, but he hopes that President Trump’s executive order won’t steer international students away from attending Southeast.
“I do hope that this is not going to result in students in general feeling that they prefer to go to another place,” Vargas said. “I mean many other countries have become very aggressive in recruiting students from other countries, and so I think over the last few years overall at the national level there’s been a loss of international students coming to the U.S.”
Despite this Vargas said his inaugural message “We Are One!” is something the university will continue to advocate for throughout the Southeast community.