With President Trump’s recent executive actions regarding travel in and out of the country come many unknowns for international and immigrant students, a panel of speakers said on Wednesday. 

“I have to say, I have probably as many questions as I have answers,” said Provost Lisa Lynch.

Signed on Jan. 25 and 27, the executive orders, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” and “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” respectively, showed that the president would fulfill two major campaign promises: to deport undocumented immigrants and to restrict Muslim entry into the United States. In addition, the first order would withdraw federal funding from the municipalities known as “sanctuary cities,” which do not prosecute undocumented immigrants living there.

The second order restricted travel from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. 

In a Jan. 27 document released by Politico on Jan. 31, the State Department “provisionally revoke[d] all valid nonimmigrant and immigrant visas of nationals” from those countries, exempting only foreign officials, representatives of NATO, and those deemed “in the national interest” on a “case-by-case basis.” It would also stop the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Madeline Cronin, an immigration lawyer from the firm Iandoli, Desai & Cronin, discussed the nuts and bolts of the system before and after the executive orders. 

She noted the impact that the visa ban would have on universities and businesses, as worker and student visas — such as B-1, F-1, H-1B and J-1 — were not exempted from the executive order.

“I thought it would take longer, because usually things are thought through, and usually people are consulted and agencies are asked, ‘How will this affect people? How will this work out?’” Cronin said. “But it was just overnight.”

On Feb. 3, according to a BrandeisNOW report, the University announced that it and seven other universities in the area had filed an amici curiae brief calling for a federal judge to push back against the travel ban. 

As of Feb. 4, the State Department has reversed the visa ban, Reuters reported. Washington Judge James L. Robart had blocked the executive action the day before, the article said.

The ban would have put international students from the seven countries in an uncomfortable position, one in which they would not be able to study abroad or visit family at home.

It presented problems for other nationalities, too, Cronin said. The executive order also called for the suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which exempted some applicants, such as students renewing F-1 visas, from the required in-person interview.

“I do expect that visa interviews are going to be delayed indefinitely for all nationalities,” said Cronin, noting that the list of banned countries was expected to grow.

While the visa ban has been reversed for now, the section on refugees remains to be addressed.

“If you hear people saying, ‘Oh, the refugees, this is what should have happened a long time ago, we shouldn’t have let all people in, they’re just letting people in’ — that is absolutely false. They wait and wait and wait,” she said. Refugees seeking to come to the United States already face a “stringent vetting process,” she pointed out — one that can sometimes take up to ten years.

With regard to the other executive order, the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals remains up in the air. 

According to the slideshow shown by Cronin, the Obama administration had already deported more people than his 20th-century predecessors combined, and the immigration courts had extensive backlogs.

Cronin also described the history of the sanctuary movement, which began in the 1980s when hundreds of religious congregations declared themselves safe havens for those fleeing violence in Central America.

The question of whether the University could function as a sanctuary campus also came up. 

Chief Diversity Officer Mark Brimhall-Vargas emphasized the importance of the privacy of affected students.

“Is it better to draw the attention of a hostile administration or not?” asked Brimhall-Vargas.

Intercultural Center Director Madeleine Lopez agreed, pointing to the need for affected students to initiate those private conversations. 

“You are all, especially as students, experiencing fear, especially the fear of the unknown,” said Lopez, addressing those affected. “And that is an unjust experience that has been imposed on you.”