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International students told not to leave U.S.

Post-Tribune

A professor from the Valparaiso School of Law warned international students that the way to avoid being affected by the recent executive order banning Muslims from entering the United States is to not leave the country.

"The main dividing line is between people inside the U.S. and outside the U.S.," Geoffrey Heeren said. "If you go outside, you can't come back in, so don't travel outside the U.S."

Hareen's message was among those presented Wednesday in a program at Valparaiso University to provide clarity over the recent executive order regarding a travel ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

"This country has gone through many things. This is one bump in the process," said Jaishankar Raman, the university's assistant provost for international affairs, a native of India who himself came to the United States as an international student, adding there was confusion in the days after 9/11 as well.

"This will also pass and please know we are all here for you."

More than 100 people, including international students, faculty and staff, and community members attended the program to learn how to navigate travel in the coming weeks.

Students submitted questions anonymously about the executive order, which also bans refugee processing for 120 days and leaves many other components of immigration law, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in flux.

Valparaiso immigration attorney Dana Rifai and Heeren, who also oversees the university's immigration law clinic, said students from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are strongly encouraged not to travel outside the U.S. because they won't be able to come back.

Those from other countries may also face increased scrutiny, they added.

Traveling within the U.S. is not affected, Rifai said, but she recommended keeping a passport, identification and other documents on hand "just in case."

Students should continue to be enrolled in school to maintain their legal residency status, she said, adding if anything changes, they should consult with an attorney.

Students who are foreign nationals but aren't from the impacted countries should also keep tabs on the executive order, Rifai added, and should travel outside the country only if needed.

"As of now this seven-country ban does not affect you but we are not sure if other countries will be added," she said.

Third-year law student Josue Espinosa of Portage is involved with the immigration clinic and said the clinic is partnering with other legal clinics and law services to see what it can do to assist the community.

"In essence, we're looking at what is there that we could do to help," he said.

Amy Lavalley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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