At least a dozen Iranian graduate students about to begin studying in the U.S., mostly at UC campuses for engineering and computer science, had their visas revoked and were prohibited from boarding flights, according to the New York Times.
The sudden visa revocation came after Iran addressed recent conflict between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. On Sept. 14, two key oil installations in Saudi Arabia were attacked by drones. The Trump administration alleges that Iran is behind the attacks of the oil facilities, according to the New York Times. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, made a public statement that the Iranian government had no part in the attack, and there would be “an all-out war” if the U.S. or Saudi Arabia made a military strike against the country, according to an interview with CNN.
There have been no reports of USC students having their visas revoked. However, there are ways that the university can help international students. Jean Reisz, co-director of the USC Immigration Clinic, confirmed that any time a student is leaving the country, especially an Iranian student, they are at risk of being denied re-entry into the U.S. If a USC student is detained at the airport, there is a hotline (213-740-7435) that students can call for assistance.
“For those students that are already outside of the country, there’s not much that can be done as far as due process rights or any rights to be allowed admission into the country,” Reisz said. “As far as legally, the USC Immigration Clinic cannot do anything to challenge the denials for any Iranian students.”
The Obama administration enacted the 2012 Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act that would allow the U.S. to prohibit entry for students whose programs could brace them to participate in jobs in the energy or nuclear sectors field. However, Peyman Malaz, the director of the Los Angeles Office of Pars Equality, explained that government agencies are not discussing the reasoning behind the recent visa revocations.
“We are really concerned about this, especially [considering] that the State Department doesn’t release any data on visa revocations and the reason behind it,” Malaz said.
He added that he considers Trump’s travel bans unjust. “The students were exempt, so we are confused and also don’t understand the nature of this denying visa to Iranian students.”
The National Iranian American Council, an organization that promotes a more effective understanding between Iranians and Americans, is still investigating the motive stopping Iranian students from traveling to the U.S., according to Policy Associate Shervin Ghaffari.
“It’s hard for us to get a sense as to whether or not this is connected to the Muslim ban issue or if this is connected to the regional tensions between the U.S. and Iran,” Ghaffari said. “We’re investigating whether or not this has to do with their specific major.”
Regardless of the reason for the visa revocations, activists say that it is significant that these policies are addressed and re-evaluated. “What can be done is advocacy because the laws can be changed,” Reisz said. “Legislative action could address this problem and that’s why it’s important to get it in front of representatives to protest to bring attention to the issue”.
Any international students at USC that are having issues with their visa should report to the Office of International Services. Those who are undocumented, unauthorized, or are having issues with immigration should seek help from the USC Immigration Clinic.