An immigration attorney explained President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on refugees and immigrants Wednesday, to about 50 students and faculty.
The Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars hosted Bernard Wolfsdorf, who immigrated to the United States from South Africa because he opposed apartheid.
Wolfsdorf said he thinks the most important piece of advice for foreign nationals is to be extremely careful to avoid deportation.
“What I’m saying is, if the speed limit is 50, drive at 49,” Wolfsdorf said. “Don’t push your luck.”
He added there are now measures in place to make deportation easier, and immigrants should give authorities no reason to arrest them.
Wolfsdorf said he thinks Trump will accomplish many of his executive orders, but the circuit courts will work to block them from taking effect.
“I believe that America has been through many, many challenges and we will get through this one as well,” Wolfsdorf said. ”But I believe that the next few months or even years are going to be brutal.”
Wolfsdorf also advised audience members to have emergency plans in place in case of deportation, and to recognize additional screening upon arrival at airports is not a new tactic.
“Do not drink and drive, do not jaywalk, do not sneeze,” Wolfsdorf said. “The message I’m giving is please be careful because a visa will be canceled based on arrest.”
Wolsdorf added foreign nationals should avoid travel outside the United States. He also said he thinks the Trump administration will institute more Muslim bans, and more restrictions will be the norm.
Shideh Hanassab, director of the Dashew Center, said the center organized the event in response to concerns from students, faculty and administrators about Trump’s executive orders.
The Dashew Center also hosted an information and reflection session Jan. 31 shortly after Trump signed the order, Hanassab said.
She added the Dashew Center will continue to monitor the executive order and update and support the center’s constituents, advising as appropriate and referring to immigration attorneys if needed.
Some students who attended the event said they thought Wolfsdorf’s presentation was helpful.
“He really helped me understand the more technical details of the ban,” said Siavash Soleymani, a finance and nursing graduate student. “It is so hard to interpret the current situation and it was helpful to hear it from a professional.”
Soleymani, an international student from Iran, said he thinks the ban contradicts his experience at UCLA, where everyone has been kind and welcoming.
“This ban came as a complete shock to me,” Soleymani added. “Discrimination because of nationality is the worst because it is something I have no control over.”
Ali Nezam, a finance graduate student from Iran, said he felt like he knew nothing about the ban before the presentation.
“The most shocking thing I learned was that (Wolfsdorf) thinks this is not just one executive order but a trend that the government is considering,” Nezam said.
Nezam also said he is the only member of his family without a green card. He added the presentation made him fear he will never receive one.
Majed Bamatraf, an international graduate student in oral biology from Yemen, said he felt overwhelmed by all the information he saw online and came to the event to get a better sense of what the ban means for his future in the U.S.
“The panel gave me a more realistic view on the ban from what I have seen online,” Bamatraf said. “Although I still have no idea what the future of the ban entails.”