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Foggy future after travel ban

February 3, 2017

Photo courtesy of Monmouth College.

The executive orders signed by President Donald Trump banned citizens of seven countries from entering the United States, including Syria. The ban effected international students all across the country, including those as Monmouth College. In response to the ban, Monmouth leadership held a meeting with students to discuss what happens next. Political Editor Jacob Marx interviewed current student Amjad Karkout and Monmouth alum Mariela Shaker. Amjad Karkout is a junior Political Science major. Mariela Shaker ’15, is a professional Violinist who was honored by President Barack Obama as a “Champion of Change for World Refugees” in 2015. This interview expresses their stories as Syrian citizens, their thoughts on Trumps actions, and how they have been affected.

The Courier: When you heard the news about the executive orders, what was your reaction?

Amjad Karkout:
I was entirely shocked. I assume that Trump will hold his word and try to impose some kind of ban or perhaps more restrictions on immigration from troubled countries, but I never thought that he would use an executive order! He has Republican majority in both chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate, and he got to appoint a judge for the Supreme Court, so I thought he would be more diplomatic about it; I thought he would try to pass it as a law through the Congress.

So I was shocked and devastated. I feared that this executive order could affect my status here in the U.S. as well as all the Syrians here. I felt very sorry for those who stuck in the airport or those who got their visas and were eager to come to this land of freedom and dreams. I still remember my happiness when I got my visa, “Finally I will be able to live in the U.S. where freedom and dreams come true.” I cannot even imagine that this happiness was stolen from many people just because they happen to be born in one of these seven countries.

Mariela Shaker:
First of all, I LOVE this country so much and I am PROUD to call it my home. A lot of people I met here have indeed inspired me in so many ways and I will support anything to ensure they are safe and protected. However, banning ALL people from the seven countries is a very hard thing to believe and it is affecting many innocent civilians. My fiancé has been rejected to come here despite the fact that he is Christian and he has the British residency.

I would like to invite president Trump to visit Monmouth College, Illinois Institute of Technology and DePaul University to get the chance to meet the Syrian students and hear their voices and stories. My Syrian friends who also arrived here via scholarships to the Illinois Institute of Technology have graduated and they got some wonderful job opportunities such as Google, Apple and Goldman Sachs. These people are capable, successful and not a burden!

Last thing, this country has given me a lot and I would do anything to secure the safety and the security of America. However, we should not forget or give up our unity and diversity because this is the American identity.
The Courier: How are you being impacted by the orders currently?

Amjad Karkout:
It is still not clear to what extent the Syrians who are already in the U.S. are affected. I have read the executive order and it does not say anything about deportation, but I am not optimistic about the situation. I am here in the U.S. because of my F1-Visa (Student visa), so when I graduate I have to leave the country if I do not have a legal status for staying, such as green card or asylum. So I am working on getting asylum. But why would Trump’s administration approve my application for asylum while it has already banned green card holders from reentering the U.S?

I am really afraid and worried that my request for asylum could be rejected. I have no other place to go; I am banned from reentering Turkey where my dad lives currently, I am also unable to get a visa to Sweden where my mom lives. My passport expired two years ago and I cannot renew it, so actually I cannot get a visa to anywhere in the world. I cannot also go back to Syria because the regime will execute me immediately for my opposition to Al-Assad. Of course, many Syrians have this same situation.

Mariela Shaker:
I am so heartbroken and I am badly affected by the executive order. I was hoping that my fiancé would be able to work on his Doctorate of Music performance here in the US so we could be together. He has got invitations here from a very prestigious universities and conservatoires. He is a concert pianist and he has been living in London for 12 years. He holds two degrees from the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Music. I am also very sad as they were saying that Christian would be prioritized. I am proud to be Christian, but Christianity taught me to love and hurry to give a hand to anybody in need. I am afraid such a declaration will only arouse discrimination and antagonism.

The Courier: What is a short summary about your background?

Amjad Karkout:
I was born in Damascus, Syria in 1993. My family comes from a religious minority called Druze. My father worked as a scenarist back in Syria, currently, he works with many media outlets in Turkey supporting the Syrian revolution for freedom and condemning both of the authoritarian regime (Al-Assad) and the extremist groups such as ISIS. My mother is an agriculture engineer, she worked for the ministry of irrigation back in Syria and now she also works with some media outlets to support the Syrian women. I am interested in the topics of justice and freedom since I was little, which caused me some troubles back in Syria since Syria is ruled by dictatorship. However, that did not break my will to learn about politics in order to fight the good fight for justice and freedom.

Mariela Shaker:
I am a Syrian violinist who managed to flee the war in Aleppo based on a music scholarship I received in the U.S in 2013. I was so determined to send my application to different programs and universities all over the world. We did not have electricity or water, so I was running under bombs and mortars falling to internet cafes to send my credentials. While I was in Aleppo, I studied Business Administration and I graduated from the University of Aleppo. I was also a violin teacher at the Arabic Institute of Music. Since I arrived here, I have been working so hard to achieve success in the music world and to advocate for my Syrian colleagues and friends who are still struggling

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