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San Diego Academics Encouraged By Decision To Keep Travel Ban On Hold

UCSD students protesting President Trump's immigration ban gathered for a mar...

Photo by Steve Walsh

Above: UCSD students protesting President Trump's immigration ban gathered for a march, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.

But scientists and professors potentially affected under President Trump's executive order said there is still too much uncertainty to resume traveling outside the country.

San Diego scientists and academics potentially affected by President Trump's travel ban were encouraged by an appeals court decision on Thursday to keep the ban on hold. But they said there is still too much uncertainty to resume traveling outside the country.

RELATED: Trump’s Executive Order On Immigration, Annotated

Farnaz Hasteh, a clinical professor of pathology at UC San Diego, is originally from Iran. She is now a U.S. citizen, but she said Trump's travel ban impacted a number of her medical residents and prevented family in Iran from visiting her in the United States.

"I think this is not constitutional," Hasteh said of the ban. "This is the country that I love. This is my home. I still go to Iran to visit my parents. I go for conferences. But this is where I live."

Hasteh said her colleagues affected by the travel restrictions still will not feel comfortable leaving the U.S. until a final decision is made on whether to uphold or strike down the ban.

"I don't think people are going to travel until they're pretty sure this thing won't happen overnight," she said.

Many students and faculty at San Diego universities come from outside the U.S., including the seven Muslim-majority countries listed in Trump's temporary travel ban.

RELATED: Where Do Members Of Congress Stand On Trump’s Immigration Order?

In deciding to uphold a lower court's freeze on Trump's orders, the 9th Circuit court of appeals said the states challenging the ban sufficiently demonstrated that the restrictions negatively impacted students and faculty at state universities.

"When the Executive Order was in effect, the States contend that the travel prohibitions harmed the States' university employees and students, separated families, and stranded the States' residents abroad," the judges wrote in their decision. "These are substantial injuries and even irreparable harms."

One of the San Diego scientists effectively trapped inside the U.S. by the travel ban is Wael Al-Delaimy, a global health professor at UC San Diego who is a green card holder originally from Iraq.

"It's definitely a sigh of relief," Al-Delaimy said of Thursday's court decision. "It's really gratifying that there's a justice system run by wise judges who uphold the law of the land."

RELATED: San Diego Scientist Says Trump’s Immigration Order Will Affect His Work, Family

But, Al-Delaimy said, he is not ready to resume previous plans to travel outside the U.S. for research on global health issues. He canceled a trip to Ecuador after Trump's orders were issued, fearing he may not be let back into the U.S. based on his country of origin. UC San Diego administrators have advised people in his position to not leave the country, and for now, he plans to continue following that advice.

Iranian Maryam Gholami, a health psychology researcher who recently received a visa approval for a research position at UC San Diego, said she was prevented from boarding a flight to the U.S. in late January.

"I have spent a lot of money, time and energy for this, and it was hard to believe this was happening," Gholami wrote in an email to KPBS.

She was later able to travel to the U.S. after the travel ban was put on hold.

"It is always heartwarming to see that there are people who know what is the right thing to do and then stand for it," she wrote.

Babak Rahimi, an Iranian-American professor in UC San Diego's literature department, wrote in an email to KPBS that despite the court's decision on Thursday, "Many continue to worry and stress."

He said his wife, a green card holder, traveled to Iran to be with family weeks prior to Trump's executive order.

"I can only imagine if my wife had to return on that Saturday, a day after the ban was enforced," Rahimi wrote. He also mentions Ph.D. students — including one who went through months of vetting before receiving a visa — who now worry about their ability to travel and their future in the U.S.

Rahimi said this is perhaps the most significant impact of the ban. "Not the actual ban as a legal order, but the psychological impact on visitors, green card holders and even U.S. citizens with dual citizenship," he wrote.

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