The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Home away from home for the holidays

Photo by Creative Commons

A revised version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban was allowed to take full effect after a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Dec. 4. Included in the current ban are travellers from North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad and Somalia, though specific travel restrictions vary for each country on the list.

While some students will be immersed in holiday cheer and the anticipation of seeing family members, some international students will not get the chance to return home to their countries over winter break.
International students affected by President Trump’s travel ban and those with single entry visas face travel restrictions that lead many to remain stateside. To avoid denial of reentry into the country after winter break, International Student Services advisors urge these students to stay in the U.S. until they finish their degree programs.
On Dec. 4, the Supreme Court allowed full enforcement of the revised version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, despite pending legal challenges. The new ban now bars travelers from North Korea and Venezuela, in addition to Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad and Somalia.
Travellers from Iran with valid student or exchange visas are still eligible for entry as well as visa holders from Venezuela with no direct family connection to certain government officials, but the order specifies that all travellers from both nations should be subject to additional screening. Amit Ghoshal, Internal Legislative chair for the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC), said the ban could present new challenges for many Iranian Aggies.
“You’re taking away their education,” Ghosal said. “Even in law, this is considered to be a property right. It’s like taking someone’s house away. You start a grad program, you start a Ph.D. program and after three years, you leave to go home to visit your family and someone tells you, ‘Oh you can’t enter the country,’ so who’s going to pay for all the money you spent?”
Ghosal said there is also a continuous issue with students who come from countries with single entry visas.
“Let’s say a student has a family emergency and they need to go home,” Ghosal said. “The challenge is they could not come back without getting a fresh new visa once you leave. Let’s say the single entry visa is valid for five years, but let’s say this person has traveled one time for any kind of emergency, they cannot come back to the country they traveled from. They have to apply for a new visa to get back into that country and this takes a long time.”
Ghoshal said he has also seen more issues with students who have multiple entry visas, which allow students to come back and forth to their country anytime they want within a designated time period.
“I remember one Chinese student who refused to go home, even though she had a very sick mother,” Ghoshal said. “She couldn’t go home because she had to reapply for a visa.”
According to Matthew Etchells, GPSC president, 40 percent of the graduate students at Texas A&M University are international students. While Etchells won’t be able to return to his home in Manchester, United Kingdom this winter break, he said he is thankful that he still has a place to call home.
“If I wasn’t married and I couldn’t go to my wife’s house in North Carolina, I’d be really down,” Etchells said. “As grad students our game plan is to leave, but we don’t know when we are going to leave. Some students are just making the decision to stay in America because they are nervous about leaving and not being able to return.”
While celebrating holidays and surrounding yourself with family, Etchells urges Aggies to reach out to international students who may be spending their winter break away from their loved ones.
“It could be the case, that a lot of international students are seeing their friends leave and they’re going to be here for a month by themselves,” Etchells said. “To what extent does the Aggie family take care of all of their family members and do we feel compelled to include others in what we are doing. It’s just the case of being inclusive and culturally sensitive about what the holiday looks like for everybody.”
Grad student Fnu Gompa Pranathi said she is grateful to get the opportunity to go back home after a year to Andhra Pradesh, India on Dec. 13. After a 24 hour flight, Pranthai said she can’t wait to celebrate with her friends and family
“I’m going home for the first time since August 2016,” Pranathi said. “We have a festival called Pongal in India that takes place in January. It’s kind of like Halloween for us, but in a very traditional way. We pray to our ancestors who have died and all of that so there will be some rituals going on and then we cook food and eat, so I’m really excited to experience that with my family.”

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