Earlier this week in the Portland neighborhood, more than a dozen global leaders converged to talk about the way the U.S. is perceived from abroad.
The optimistic group included citizens from Iraq, Sudan, Jordan and Egypt. But during the discussion, several said their loved ones had questioned whether they should even make the trip to the United States.
The cohort is part of the International Visitor Leadership Program of the State Department. Earlier this week, a few days before President Trump’s reworked travel ban would’ve gone into effect, they mingled with Louisvillians at an event hosted by the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
Ruqayah Al Khaleefah is from from Iraq, a country that was temporarily blocked from traveling to the U.S. in Trump’s first version of the travel ban. She spoke through an interpreter.
“But we’ve discovered peace, kindness from everybody belonging to the American community,” she said, adding that so far, the country isn’t like the image of America portrayed in Hollywood and cowboy movies she’s seen.
Naiara Galarraga is a Spanish journalist on the international desk of the newspaper El País. She said she’s met with academics, think tanks and bureaucrats while on this trip and is surprised by the uncertainty surrounding President Trump’s policies and their future.
“Most of the people we have met will tell you I have no idea, I’m not really sure, we’re second-guessing,” she said. “So we’ll see.”
But for Galarraga, the relationship with the U.S. is still a reliably friendly one.
“In Spain and the rest of Europe,” she said, “the States is a partner. We share values, we share history.”
A day after the visitors gathered in Louisville, two federal judges blocked the second version of Trump’s travel ban, drawing ire from the president at a rally in Nashville.
“We’re going to fight this terrible ruling,” Trump said. “We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court. And let me tell you something — I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.”