In Depth with Brad Byrd

In-Depth with Brad Byrd: Travel Ban

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that President Donald Trump's travel ban is legal. Walid Hasanato joins Brad Byrd to share his feelings on the ruling.



Brad: Welcome to InDepth. An historic ruling Tuesday from the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court upheld President Trump's travel ban on several Muslim majority countries. Chief Justice John Roberts said the latest ban fits within the President's broad national security powers regarding immigration admissions to the United States. The ruling is being heavily protested and criticized.I'm joined tonight by Walid Hasanato. He is a student at the University of Evansville who was born in Syria. Syria is among the seven countries affected by this latest version of the travel ban. And Walid thank you for joining us tonight for this candid discussion.Your first reaction when you heard that this ruling came down.

Walid : Well, Brad. When I heard about the ruling, I couldn’t help but think that there’s an insane amount of irony this administration is displaying.  On one hand they had the courage and the boldness to attack the, the atrocious Syrian regime for their criminal chemical attacks on the Syrian people. President Trump spoke about how this crossed many red lines. In some sense, he showed compassion with the Syrian people. He’s saying I will not tolerate the pictures or the videos of, of Syrian children being murdered.

Brad: And as we look at some of the video of those attacks and what happened there, are you wanting to go back? But if you do go back to just visit family and friends, can you come back to the United States?

Walid: Leaving the country at this point is absolutely not an option for myself. First of all, I mean, I’ve been on your show before and I’ve spoken against the President of my country, which is a persecutable offense. The second of all the travel ban won’t let me back into the country, so on my behalf I wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon. But this travel ban affects most strongly the people in Syria. Again, President Trump showed compassion to these people. There was an opportunity to help them even further – bring them to a safe haven where it’s much better options for them in the United States. In one situation he’s saying I will not tolerate seeing them suffering, and then he does a complete 180 and then says we will not let them into the country, as if they are the criminals he’s persecuting.

Brad: And, and he… you mention criminals in this. He is saying, he is saying this week – he has said this before - we will not allow terrorists into this country, even if it is all individuals who are coming in. What is your reaction to that?

Walid: Well uh, there is a extreme understatement to the vetting process of the United States of America. As an immigrant and a person who knows a lot of people who are trying to get into the country, it is no joke what they go through to get to the U.S. It’s a very harsh vetting system that will only allow um, uh… good people to come into this country. And I would take the example of the students that arrived to the University of Evansville. University of Evansville, as you know, has provided the Ashkosha program for Syrian students. Before the travel ban, we had a maximum number of 22 students who, almost 11 have graduated by now. It was an amazing experiment, if you can call it, to see how people who’ve been displaced from Syria can excel so well in American society and integrate seamlessly. And, uh, again, I think it’s an extreme overstatement how much of a threat these are characterized by.

Brad: And right now with protests continuing throughout the country, really on two fronts – one on the border situation down south and now this travel ban. Immigrants and non-immigrants now, in Syria including those Syrian refugees who are just trying to get out of the country because of the very violent civil war going on. They can’t get over here now. And do you have friends and family over there that you worry about?

Walid: I do have distant relatives, but thankfully my parents have immigrated to Canada to seek asylum. I will say, this travel ban, for the people watching tonight, if they would like to know who it is affecting, it's little children in corners of Syria who have to face the fear and threat of bombings, chemical attacks, snippers. This is what this is targeting, nothing else, nothing more. Not terrorists, people like you and I who have dreams of living a safe life. 
Brad: You told me in a conversation we had right here at this table last year, you were born in Aleppo, which has turned into the center of the heartbreak in Syria. You told me, as I recall, you had a good childhood and you were surounded by loving people. You are now here, and you had a perception of America when you first arrived here. How would you describe it then, and how would you describe it now?

Walid: So, to be quite frank with you, the U.S. does not have a good reputation beyond it's border. I came in 2014, and the first two years, what was mindblowing about it was how how welcoming and warm people are. That took a lot of time for me to get used to. In my head, I started seeing the U.S. as a big experiment of diversity and how people can really work well together if we put our differences aside. It's funny, I had this conversation with a lot of relatives, trying to tell them how nice Americans are and how welcoming they are. They'll shake your hand and bring you into their homes and they'll be with you every step if you're a foreigner. Then the 2016 election comes around, and that's just something I couldn't explain myself. 

Brad: We talked about these words last night when you were here. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free." It's often associated with the statue of liberty. Have you been to the Statue of Liberty?

Walid: I have, actually. 

Brad: What went through your heart and mind when you saw that?

Walid: I feel like the two places I really enjoyed visiting in the U.S. was the Statue of Liberty and Washington, D.C. I come from a country were government systems do not work. It's a strong man, a dictator sitting on top persecuting his people. My idea of the U.S. is a government system that works for the people. People who would like to help people. To see that, the monuments, that just symbolized the freedom, the First Amendment. And now to hear about this, it's very odd.
Brad: What about the people of Evansville? The people that you have been living with and associating with during the past four years? Have you seen any change in the way they feel, especially with the climate today?

Walid: It's hard to describe. I've always had a very good relationship with people here in this city, even if they have extreme political thoughts, which we all have in a sense. The attitude towards myself and my friends in this city, I don't think it has changed. Again, the Midwest is a great place to be.
Brad: You're not the only one in this situation. You had told me there are so many students that are being impacted by the travel ban. Walid Hasanato, thank you so much for being with us tonight. And you plan to graduate when?

Walid: This spring.

Brad: And will your parents be able to come here and see that?

Walid: I was planning on them to see my graduation, now I'm not sure that's gonna happen. 

Brad: Because of what's happening right now?

Walid: Yes.

Brad: Alright, let's hope that changes. We appreciate you being here and talking with us.

Walid: Thank you so much.



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(This story was originally published June 27, 2018)

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