GRACE IS A young woman with an infectious smile and a passion for learning. She's a full-time college student in her junior year at a small liberal arts college and an active member of her school's Model United Nations program, student government and field hockey team. As if that wasn't enough, she decided to study abroad this spring semester.
Wanting to study in Spain, she started learning Spanish last summer and was fluent by the time she arrived in Europe nine months later. She felt right at home with her host family, which owns a large house just outside of Granada with a spectacular view of the southern Spanish countryside.
She considered herself lucky.
Her luck soon ran out in the early morning hours of Jan. 28. She received a phone call from the college program director and was told that she will not be able to go back to the United States.
Grace is from Syria.
Grace is one of many Middle Eastern college students studying in the United States who've been affected by President Trump's first travel ban executive order. The first prohibited anyone from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States for at least 90 days and banned Syrians from entering the U.S. for an indefinite period of time.
Grace made immediate plans to come back to the U.S. to ensure her timely graduation.
Studying abroad would have to wait.
The ban prevented Arab and Middle Eastern students from attending American colleges and universities where they've already been accepted, as well as those students who needed to update their American visas to stay in the country. These are just a few adverse consequences of a policy designed to prevent radical Islamic terrorists from entering the United States.
However, this shouldn't affect Grace: She's Christian.
Christians in Syria compose 10 percent of the country's population. Because of her religion, Grace faces discrimination in Syria. Yet, she is now unwelcome in the United States because of her ethnicity.
Trump's "extreme vetting" model claims that many potential terrorists will disguise themselves as Christians to enter the U.S. Therefore, Grace is a suspect on both religious and ethnic grounds.
The Trump administration won't recognize that many Arab nations have diverse ethnic and religious populations that do not warrant suspicion of terrorism. Trump doesn't care about the ethnic and religious diversity that constitutes the Arab world today, something our commander-in-chief must understand when it comes to foreign policy.
Trump's second travel ban executive order was halted earlier this month, the day before it would take effect. Speaking at a rally hours afterward, Trump promised to fight the court-ordered appeal that halted the ban. He said he would bring the debate to the Supreme Court if he needed to.
His determination to keep Arabs out of the United States - even if federal courts deem it unconstitutional - shows not only his lack of cross-cultural understanding, but also the power-hungry exceptionalism he feels as president. To him, court rulings are mere legal obstacles that he'll try to overcome to further his agenda, regardless of their ethical standing.
What's more, Trump's shortsighted view of the Middle East will prevent more students like Grace from studying in the United States in the future.
Grace is planning a career in international law, with a special focus on mediation practices. To her, helping people is a priority, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.
Unfortunately, she probably will have to attend graduate school in Europe, since Trump's actions might prohibit her from entering the U.S. again. This will undoubtedly happen to hundreds of other Arab students, creating a disastrous effect on U.S.-Arab relations.
Students like Grace will help make the world a better place, with or without the help of the United States. At least that could give us solace.