Creative Arts Music Photography

Travel Ban Leaves Artists in Limbo

Written by Katelyn Crawford

Travel Ban Affects International Artists.

The jazz begins with a slow tempo. As it speeds up, a deep voice bellows out like thick smoke stacks against a gray sky. The blonde bombshell from Iran, Googoosh, has such a smooth voice she could sing pages from the dictionary and still make audiences swoon. And, after years of living in and touring the U.S., she has made thousands of concert-goers do just that.

While in London recording new material, Googoosh heard the news that sent shock waves around the world: President Trump signed an executive order that banned immigrants from 7 majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. The executive order also instituted an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria. The Administration stated the ban was aimed at terrorist-prone nations, and that it would be lifted as soon as the Administration could create a better vetting process for each of the 7 nations.

Uncertain Legal Standing

As the chaos unfolded, even lawful permanent residents or people with visas were being detained or refused entry at airports. Googoosh  was terrified about re-entering the U.S., which has now been her home for several years. Talent managers, agents, and entertainment lawyers alike had no idea what to tell their overseas clients. The order was unclear, and its implementation was messy.

Shortly after the executive order was signed, the Trump administration clarified that the ban did not apply to Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), and artists such as Googoosh were allowed entry back into the U.S. Despite the Administration’s clarification, the travel ban has faced an upward legal battle– making neither side comfortable or certain about what to expect.

The ban was temporarily stayed by a federal district court in Washington State, and recently affirmed by the Ninth Circuit court. However, international artists—many whom call the U.S. home—are left wondering if the government will appeal (and win) the Ninth Circuit’s decision. The Trump Administration has also promised a new version of the ban, which they plan to roll out any day now.

Travel Ban Affects Students

The precarious legal standing of the executive order hasn’t just left traveling musicians and artists strained. Students at some of the leading art institutes in America are also wondering if they will be allowed to travel home on summer break, or if they will eventually be deported regardless of their student visas.

A faculty member at the Art Institute in Chicago, Anne,* explained that her foreign students feel the emotional weight of the immigration ban. They feel fear. What’s more, is the faculty doesn’t know what to tell students. No one is sure how the ongoing legal battle will turnout.

For now, Anne simply listens to her students.

“I have a Palestinian student. He’s just terrified of being deported.” She explained with heaviness in her voice.

The Art Institute isn’t the only place of higher education that has been affected by the recent ban. Washington State’s standing in federal court was precisely because of that issue: universities were harmed because current and potential students and professors were not able to travel to Washington.  The ban created negative economic repercussions throughout the universities and the state.

Based on numbers by the Institute of International Education, about 16,600 students are affected by the stayed ban. With over 1 million international students in the U.S., their contribution to the economy is nearly $33 billion and support over 400,000 jobs. Those numbers don’t account for the cultural contributions from immigrants, such as the creation of Google or the famous American sculpture, Memorial to Colonel Shaw on Boston Common.

In the meantime, many artists like Googoosh are awaiting the appeal of the Ninth Circuit decision, and the next immigration order. They are playing a waiting game, wondering if they can schedule tours or make new material. They’re wondering if the place that many of them now call home will eventually kick them out or revoke their visas.


*Anne’s name was changed for this article.

About the author

Katelyn Crawford

Katelyn is a graduate of George Mason University School of Law, where she studied economics as applied to law. She also completed course work at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. While living in Washington, D.C. Katelyn was a journalist, and worked in numerous policy areas including technology, military and education. She now works in financial compliance, and writes for multiple publications. When Katelyn isn't being a lawyer or writer, she is a photographer. You can follow her on twitter @WeSingSin.

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