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A Culture of Fear

By Sung Kwang Oh
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

Last fall, Reihana Emami Arandi, a recent admittee of Harvard Divinity School’s Master of Theological Studies program, was deported from Boston Logan International Airport to her home country of Iran. Despite going through the long, tedious process of attaining a student visa, Arandi’s visa was revoked shortly after landing by Custom and Border Patrol officials, citing “immigrant intent.” She was issued an expedited removal order followed by an additional five-year ban from the United States.

This event is part of a recent trend of Iranian students with valid student visas being denied entry into the country. Just last month, Iranian student Shahab Dehghani was deported shortly after arriving at Logan Airport with a valid student visa. And there have been at least 13 cases since August of Iranian students being deported across the U.S. despite having valid student visas. While we acknowledge that we do not know the complete facts of this specific case at the moment, the increasing prevalence of such cases reflects a troubling pattern.

The impact of these deportations extends far beyond the individuals concerned. Each builds upon a climate of paranoia and fear for immigrants. The onslaught of these deportations, along with the Trump administration’s insistence on weaponized, anti-immigrant rhetoric and a deeply offensive travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries, nurture hostility toward immigrants in this country. We strongly condemn the Trump administration’s dangerous rhetoric and policies that have led to incidents such as Arandi’s. It is of the utmost importance that the U.S. — and particularly institutions of higher education — fully embrace and support immigrants in the name of secure, open cultural exchange.

We find these cases particularly concerning in light of the extensive background checks and increased screening of visa applicants carried out by U.S. immigration authorities. While the process of obtaining a student visa is arduous, applicants from the countries targeted by the original travel ban — including Iran — face even more stringent vetting and longer processing times. Moreover, according to a new State Department rule introduced last year, visa applicants from most countries are now required to disclose additional information, including social media profiles. For students with valid visas to be turned away at the airport after facing such comprehensive and invasive scrutiny seems inexplicable without the anti-immigrant program emanating from the White House.

It is important to note that these immigration policies have been met with strong opposition from Harvard’s administration. After an incoming Harvard freshman was denied entry into the U.S. and subsequently deported, the University worked with immigration authorities to resolve the issue, resulting in the student’s eventual arrival on campus.

We are grateful that Harvard has the institutional influence to support its international students and lobby for their immigration rights. Resources such as the Harvard International Office’s 24/7 emergency hotline for international students and scholars facing issues while attempting to enter the U.S. are crucial in helping protect the ability of international students to participate in the production of scholarship on campus.

President Bacow, who has written to administration officials and lawmakers with concerns about immigration policies, has been vocal in criticizing the unnecessary disruption, delays, and anxiety faced by international students during the immigration process. We commend his work in advocating for those affected by these policies, and urge him to continue that work — even more aggressively — to advocate for students with immigration issues beyond just in the cases of those accepted to Harvard.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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