The student, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the situation, said it is unclear how Trump’s immigration restrictions — applied to seven Middle Eastern and North African nations including Iran — will continue to shape his life.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m ordered to leave the country before I finish my (degree),” he said. “I think the situation will be better, but who knows.”
He said he doesn’t understand why Iran was included in Trump’s executive order.
“I can’t think of any one particular event that an Iranian citizen was involved (in) — whether 9/11 or the San Bernardino shooting,” he said.
He said he never expected something to happen so early in Trump’s administration.
“I know people, I know students who were in conferences with multiple entry visas, or they were in Iran visiting their families, and they can’t come back,” he said.
As he has a single entry student visa, the student said he aims to finish his program at UNC. But he is concerned the situation might be less certain for his wife, who will need to reapply for an Optional Practical Training visa extension.
“I have a year and a half to go, and probably that means one year living apart at least,” he said if she must return to Iran.
His parents, who planned to visit the United States in March, are unsure whether they will be permitted to enter the country with their green cards.
The student said despite the situation — and the fact he will likely have to change his plans for after graduation — he is trying to stay positive.
“I try to be positive because I see that there are people out there who are trying to make things better,” he said. “And I hope that they can do something about it.”
Evaluating the University response
Though he said he received a call Sunday from UNC saying they were aware of his situation, he thought the University-wide response had been slower than others’ in the news.
Chancellor Carol Folt sent a statement Sunday night, emphasizing the value of a diverse and international student body. She said the situation was still developing and those affected by the order are advised to consult with an immigration attorney before planning international travel.
“In the coming weeks and months, we encourage everyone to do your best to stay focused on your work, and fully engaged in the dreams that brought you here,” Folt said in the email.
In a message to students, faculty and staff affected by the order, Duke University recommended foreign nationals be cautious and avoid international travel.
“While the current environment remains unsettled, we want to restate that Duke University cannot and will not share confidential student records with law enforcement agencies — local, state or federal — without a subpoena,” said a statement by Duke President Richard Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth.
N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said of the 170 students, visiting scholars and employees who might be affected by the executive order, the school is unaware of any traveling abroad.
“To all of our international students, especially those from the countries identified in the Executive Order, please know you are a welcome and valued part of the NC State Community,” he said in the statement.
Protest at RDU International Airport
More than 1,000 people gathered at Raleigh-Durham International Airport Sunday, joining a national group of protests against Trump’s executive order.
Amanda Weissman, one of the event organizers, said she had not expected such a large turnout.
“It shows how united we are, and how opposed the American people are to (the executive order),” she said.
The protest also drew supporters of Trump’s executive action. And at one point, a man in a red USA hat rolled down his window to shout “Go Trump” as he drove by.
Erin Carter, a 2016 graduate from UNC, said she thinks Trump probably doesn’t care about the Raleigh protest.
“But I do think that he needs to know that others do not agree with what he’s saying,” she said.
Others among the crowd had much younger perspectives. Sayda and Wilmer Jimenez from Raleigh said they brought their kids with them to the protest to teach them a life lesson.
“We want them to know they have to love other people,” Wilmer said.
DTH photographer Rob Gourley contributed reporting.