Student abroad not allowed to board plane home

Alejandra Monjardin (left), Venancio Rius, Dylan Engquist and Carmen Sotelo. Photo credit: Submitted by Alejandra Monjardin

Alejandra Monjardin (left), Venancio Rius, Dylan Engquist and Carmen Sotelo. Photo by: Alejandra Monjardin

ELISABETH PEREZ
Public Affairs Manager

An NSU student couldn’t board her flight to the U.S. after her semester abroad when President Donald Trump signed the executive order on a 90-day travel ban.

The new order began on Jan. 27 and suspended all travel, including visa holders, from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. It also banned refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, banned Syrian refugees indefinitely and cut the total number of refugees allowed in the U.S. by half.

Although Alejandra Monjardin is not from one of the seven banned countries, the international student from Mexico experienced difficulty returning to the U.S. at the end of her fall semester studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, with the International Student Exchange Program. She blames the chaos surrounding the new order for the confusion she encountered at Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport in Spain on Thursday, Feb. 2.

“The airport officials were very confused,” Monjardin said. “They said Trump had just passed some new regulation, and this was the first day it was going to be put into effect.”

Spanish airport officials did not allow Monjardin to enter the U.S. until she purchased an additional ticket as proof she would depart the U.S. at the end of her stay.

The only explanation officials could give Monjardin was that President Trump had just instated new regulations. They refused to allow her to board her flight, fearing she would be sent back to Spain after landing in the U.S.

“I had four or five Spanish airport officials surrounding a computer, trying to look up the new rules and policies,” Monjardin said. “ … I constantly had people coming up to me and apologizing.”

Alejandra poses with her Spanish visa on August 9, 2016. She counted down the days until she would be studying at the Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio in Madrid. Photo by: Alejandra Monjardin

Alejandra poses with her Spanish visa on August 9, 2016. She counted down the days until she would be studying at the Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio in Madrid. Photo by: Alejandra Monjardin

Monjardin safely returned to the U.S. on Feb. 3. By the end of her trip, she had purchased three tickets––her original ticket, a new ticket after she was forced to miss her flight because of the confusion and a ticket as proof she will exit the U.S.

“This was the first time I have ever felt there was something wrong with my Mexican heritage,” Monjardin said. “Somehow I felt less than or unworthy because of my nationality.”

Director of the International Students’ Resource Center Telba Espinoza-Contreras said that travel regulations have not changed for international students. (Students must have a valid visa, passport and an I-20 form with a signature. “Exit” tickets are not a requirement).

“It’s hard to realize how this is affecting not only the people from the seven countries, but also everyone else who is here as an immigrant,” Espinoza-Contreras said.

She said many international students have come to her, worried about traveling home for fear they may not be able to return and complete their degrees.

Espinoza-Contreras said that though international students’ fears about traveling home may not currently be valid, these fears are still present and have been caused by the current political hostility toward immigrants.

Currently, no international students from the seven affected countries are NSU students. Former Northwestern President Dr. Jim Henderson, however, said in an email that “last year, 49 students on visas from the seven countries named in the executive order studied at UL System universities.”

“Fortunately, the vast majority (if not all) of the faculty, staff and students of our universities would likely already be in the U.S. and unaffected by the order,” Henderson said.

In a statement released by the News Bureau on Jan. 31, Acting President Dr. Chris Maggio expressed the university’s support “for all of its students and faculty regardless of race, gender, creed or national origin” and said that NSU will provide “assistance and support in every way possible for those in the NSU family that are affected by the immigration policy.”

The travel ban was temporarily suspended by Judge James Robert on Friday, Feb. 3. In a hearing on Feb. 7, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from both sides of the issue. A decision is yet to be announced, but it is expected that the losing side will most likely appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

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