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KPTV: Iraqi PSU student shares experience of life under the travel ban
Author: Nora Hart, KPTV
Posted: February 13, 2017

Watch the story on KPTV - FOX 12.

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - A Portland State University student from Iraq is celebrating just days after a U.S. appeals court refused to reinstate President Trump’s travel ban.

“We try to learn a lot from here and transfer American values, freedom, and democracy. This is the goal,” said Bashar, a Ph.D. student at Portland State University. Bashar asked that FOX 12 not reveal his full identity.

Anyone who spends any amount of time with Bashar, who is studying environmental engineering at Portland State, will quickly pick up on his passions

Beyond his coursework, his hobbies include studying sustainability, networking and being involved with the international student program.

Over the last few weeks, though, his focus has shifted to concern for his future, with talk of a travel ban from seven majority Muslim countries, including in Bashar’s home in Iraq

“It was a really tough two weeks. It was difficult, we had fears like, ‘how can we continue our degrees?’” Bashar said. “Maybe someday we’ll wake up to a new rule and we’ll need to leave.”

While he’s pleased with the recent suspension of the president’s travel ban, Bashar said he’s worried that his time in the U.S. could be limited.

“Some friends are thinking about applying for college in Canada. If something happens here, we can transfer over,” he said.

Over halfway through his Ph.D. program, Bashar told FOX 12 he has canceled all trips outside of the U.S. for fear of not being able to return. This includes a conference in Canada he is now missing and an internship in the Netherlands he had to turn down.

“I really needed that internship to help me with my research, but I said ‘no thank you, I can’t leave America until I finish my program,’” he said. “When I finish my program, of course, I will go back to my country.”

Bashar says he finds support on campus, especially among the dozens of other international students from the countries named in the travel ban. But in other social circles, it has become a challenge

“Socially, it’s not good. For nothing, I became a victim. Saying I’m from Iraq is a big shame [because of misconceptions]," he explained.

Moving forward, Bashar hopes to finish his degree in the next few years and bring his research of wastewater management back to Iraq to help the community. But for now, he’s celebrating the ruling against reinstating the travel ban.

“Some people called it a victory,” he said. “I say it’s a victory, not just for international students, but for the American constitution and American people, and American values.”

Portland State is advising that their international students from the countries named in the ban hold off on traveling out of the U.S. for now.