Op-Ed: Questioning Our Nation’s Travel Ban: Re-opening a Closed Door Policy

Gabriel Bassin , Contributing Writer

President Trump recently released a new edition of his travel ban impacting North Korea, Syria, Chad, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Iran, and Venezuela. He continues to implement his immigration policy, via a travel ban, believing that this will successfully perform the duty of, “Detecting attempted entry into the United States by terrorists or other public-safety threats,” according to www.whitehouse.gov.

“It seems very distant,” According to Mrs. Marks, our head of upper school who has been working with international students since 1989,  “But the ban has affected the number of international students in the US altogether.”

This new policy affects the citizens of these far away foreign countries, but also hurts members of our own community right here at Bolles.  It punishes the people that learn, walk, and talk among us. The ban is a passive solution to foreign problems by closing the door to other countries. It severs contact between families abroad, and attacks the beliefs of some of the student body.

Soraya Bata is a 10th grade student.  She is a member of the Bolles track team, the president of the Amnesty International club, and an honors student: a big contributor to our community. Most of her mother’s family is trapped in Iran. She visited Iran in 2014 and 2015 to go see family. She was planning to go back, “then Trump got elected.” Bata “wanted to go back to my [her] great-grandmother before Trump got elected.”  However, due to health issues, Bata’s family was unable to visit her great-grandmother. Now, the family fears they won’t be able to see her again.

When Trump banned Iranians, Iran reacted negatively, and placed a travel ban on the United States.  So now, Bata can’t get to Iran.  “When he banned other countries, they banned Americans, so I’m banned from Iran.”

During her previous visits, Bata had started to develop a relationship with her grandmother and the rest of her Iranian family.  The travel ban has now made them “more isolated” from her.  Trump’s ban has put Bata in a position in which she cannot maintain her relationship with her family.  The ban closes the door between Iranian Americans and their families.

Frank Iturriaga Ayala plays soccer at Bolles. Frank, a Venezuelan with his extended family still living there, has gone back for every summer and winter break. At this moment, there doesn’t seem to be a threat of his travel being interfered with by the ban. However, Frank feels the ban fails to provide the support Venezuela needs to resolve its political turmoil.

Iturriaga Ayala has a green card and is a position to stay in the United States.  He claims though that Venezuela has been trying to get help from countries lately, including the United States. Iturriaga Ayala believes one of the biggest threats is to Venezuela that “the president is changing the Constitution. He’s trying to give himself more power.” Venezuela has become a divided political state.  Iturriaga Ayala says, “I’ve seen what’s happening.” Iturriaga Ayala believes “no one should be banned, no one.”  The United States is creating tension with Venezuela by closing the door to them.  The travel ban is preventing the US from communicating with Venezuela to provide the support necessary to resolve the current situation. “It’s not going to help if no one’s going to stop it.”

Many students have noticed a girl on campus who wears a hijab, but Rahaf Salameh is more than her head covering. She is a practicing Muslim who plays a strong role on her basketball team. Her family is from Palestine.  Most of her family lives there and they go every summer.  Though West Bank is protected from the travel ban, it still creates problems.  If Trump is targeting Muslim countries, it could expand into Palestine. Salameh says that the travel ban is “hurting people.”  Salameh feels the immigrants do benefit people in the US.

The ban appears to generally target Muslim countries under the assumption that Muslims are terrorists. According to Robert Azzi, a photojournalist who created a podcast called ‘Ask a Muslim Anything’ to help Americans understand Islamic culture, “9/11 encouraged the false notion that that’s when Muslims suddenly arrived in America, when, in fact, they’ve been here for centuries.”

To Salameh, “In general, the religion preaches for peace.” Therefore,  the ban makes  Muslims perceived as dangerous off of this notion. In fact, “ISIS attacks more Muslim people than outsiders,” according to Salameh.

Salameh believes that as a president, it’s Trump’s responsibility to be the face of the United States, and that there are families in need.  In fact according to the Washington Post and ABC News, the administration put a cap on refugees entering the US at 45,000 people, only 5% of Jacksonville’s population. The US shouldn’t close the door to so many people. “Banning them from coming here is too harsh.”

As a community at Bolles, we preach open-mindedness, to reach out, to help, and to be empathetic towards those around us.  This travel ban is a form of accidental hypocrisy.  We just had MAD Day to go and help out in the community, yet we won’t help abroad.  Some of us feel issues that seem far away, are actually very close to home. When you consider the travel ban, think about these people.

Trump’s decision to institute a travel ban is hurting our community.  Bata’s family is separated from their Iranian relatives. Iturriaga Ayala’s homeland is experiencing turmoil that the United States needs to help resolve.  Salameh’s culture is being challenged. The US needs to be willing to help others.

It’s not time to build a wall, it’s time to open the door.