Professor Returns to Class After Long Visa Ordeal
September 20, 2006 12:05 PM
After nearly three months in limbo, stranded and waiting for U.S. security clearance in Canada, an SF State professor greeted his packed classroom Wednesday morning and embraced his replacement while students clapped.
“In the airplane I was worried someone would shout my name and take me off,” Mohammad Ramadan Hassan Salama told the students.
Last week the State Department issued Salama a new visa, effectively permitting him to re-enter the United States and continue teaching Arabic language classes at SF State. Salama, 38, worked and studied in the country for the last seven years.
Salama’s troubles began June 20, when he traveled to the U.S. Embassy in Toronto to upgrade his visa status. There he learned he was prohibited from entering the United States until a “security clearance” was granted by the State Department.Salama, who is Egyptian, expressed his gratitude to his students and SF State faculty for keeping his classes alive while he was stuck in Canada for almost 90 days.
“I am not 100 percent ready to teach yet,” Salama said. “I am really thankful to all of you for staying in this class.”
Salama's 0-1 Visa was granted on September 13. He said he picked it up in Toronto on September 14.
An O-1 visa is for non-immigrant citizens of foreign countries who demonstrate extraordinary abilities or achievements in the arts, sciences, athletics, motion picture industry, education or business. O-1 applications require a rigorous set of documentation on the applicant's past.
Aside from the “security clearance” Salama said he was completely left in the dark and was not given specific reasons as to why he was being barred from re-entering the country.
One student did not hesitate to imply he was unlawfully prevented from returning to his career and family in the United States. His wife and two children are U.S. citizens.
“Are you gonna sue?” asked Fisayo Lagundoye, 24, an Arabic language student.
“Some have raised that point, but I do not yet know,” Salama said.
Salama said he feels fortunate his case received media attention, but he has since learned that hundreds of other Muslim men with Middle Eastern names are facing the same challenges or are denied entry to the United States.
He said he fears that most of these are not considered high profile cases and, therefore, are not covered in the media.
"People of all faiths need to be treated with respect. Muslims' love for this country should not be doubted," said Salama.
He earlier said that at the beginning of his ordeal, U.S. immigration authorities continually addressed him as "mister" and "intended to deprive me of everything, to degrade me."
Salama has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Wisconsin.
Salama said he believes in the importance of national security, but at the same time said the system needs to be more efficient and fair. He told his students they should always seek and demand freedom in what he called a “dangerous age.”
“Freedom is something to be respected,” Salama said.
Salama, who previously taught Arabic language and culture to Wisconsin Army National Guard officers and soldiers, missed the first three weeks of the fall semester.
He said he is financially strained due to paying for his living expenses in Canada and his apartment in San Francisco for two months while supporting his wife and two children in Wisconsin.
He ultimately could not afford to keep his apartment in San Francisco.
“It will take me at least four months to reach the financial stability I had before,” Salama said.
He said the dean of humanities Paul Sherwin arranged a new apartment in San Francisco for him and also the foreign language and literature department chair Midori McKeon stayed overnight in her office on three occasions to ensure his classes were not canceled.
“I feel I am part of an amazingly supportive community here at SF State," Salama said. "The support from the dean and the department chair was amazing."
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University