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US educators rush to reassure students, faculty in wake of Trump’s immigration ban

Education institutions in the US have rushed to reassure international students and faculty after the president signed an executive order banning entry of all refugees for 120 days and citizens from seven mostly Muslim countries for 90 days, as well as all Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Crowds protest the immigration ban at JFK airportProtests erupted at airports across the country in response to the ban and detainment of returnees. At JFK, above, an international student was detained for 30 hours. Photo: Photo: wikipedia/Rhododendrites.

"Let me unequivocally state that American citizens will not tolerate policies such as these that undermine our values and endanger our safety"

The move affects all individuals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Syria with multiple entry visas including the F-1 student visa, J-1 study-exchange visa and the H-1B visa used by many graduates for post-study work.

Last year, there were 17,300 students from those countries studying in the US, 12,200 of whom came from Iran, according to IIE’s Open Door statistics.

“As far as NYU is concerned, these are members in good standing of our academic community, no different from anyone else”

Meanwhile, international students travelling overseas during the ban have been stranded or detained upon return to airports in the US.

Andrew Hamilton, president of New York University, stated, “As far as NYU is concerned, these are members in good standing of our academic community, no different from anyone else.”

NYU has pledged support for all students and scholars affected and wrote directly to students, faculty and researchers from the seven countries to highlight the “enormous risk” they would be taking by travelling outside of the US while the order is in effect. It has also arranged for special information sessions with an immigration expert.

Cornell University called the ban “deeply troubling”, saying it “has serious and chilling implications for a number of our students and scholars”.

“It is fundamentally antithetical to Cornell University’s principles.”

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan was one university that reiterated it would not reveal the immigration status of its students.

“We will continue to advocate on the behalf of all international students, scholars, and employees for immigration and visa policies that facilitate your success in the United States…” it said in a statement. “During this challenging and uncertain time, please take care of yourself and continue to focus on the positive reasons you came to U-M. We are glad that you are here.”

A comprehensive list of links to university statements can be found here.

“It is fundamentally antithetical to Cornell University’s principles”

NAFSA: Association of International Educators slammed the ban, saying it “undermines the nation’s values of freedom and openness and makes America less safe”.

“President Trump has created a problem where one didn’t exist,” said executive director Esther Brimmer.

“To the students, scholars, doctors, refugees, family members and others who wonder if the United States has lost its commitment to its core values as a nation of freedom, opportunity, and welcome, let me unequivocally state that American citizens will not tolerate policies such as these that undermine our values and endanger our safety.

“We understand that America is part of the global community, and we will raise our voices with Congress, with the White House, with the media and in our communities to continue to adhere to the principles that have always made us strongest.”

The order was signed into action on Friday January 27, creating chaos at US borders and airports. Several reports detailed students detained or stranded as a result of the ban.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Niki Mossafer Rahmati, who was home in Tehran for winter break, was prevented from boarding her connecting flight to Boston on January 28.

“About 30 other Iranians and I were stuck in Doha, waiting for flights back to Tehran,” she wrote in a post on Facebook.  “Among them were old couples trying to go and see their children in the US, two old women trying to be with and help their pregnant daughters there for their third trimesters, students who had just gotten their visas and families who had sold their belongings back home so they could build a better life in the US.

“All these people had gotten visas legally and had gone through background checks. The President had said that the goal of this Order was dealing with illegal immigration. Do any of the people sound like illegal immigrants?”

“President Trump has created a problem where one didn’t exist”

The Harvard Crimson reported two Iranian scholars who were scheduled to begin studying and research at Harvard Medical School were barred entry.

“We want to learn and work more under supervision of top professors of your country in top universities and finally transfer our knowledge to students and extend the thought of science friendship,” wrote Seyed S. S. Saravi, a scientist who had been awarded a fellowship to study cardiovascular medicine. “I am so sorry for this decision.”

And the case of graduate student Vahideh Rasekhi, a doctoral student studying linguistics at Stony Brook University in New York, was widely circulated after she was detained at John F Kennedy airport for 30 hours.

After public protests, the Department of Homeland Security loosened the ban around green card holders saying permanent resident status will be taken into consideration on a “case-by-case basis”.

But uncertainty remains about the future of the policy, which allows DHS to extend the ban to other countries after a 30-day review to determine which provide adequate information for its citizens to enter the US.

“It will dramatically reduce the number of international students not only from the seven countries but other Muslim-majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey”

“The potential impact of the recent ban on seven Muslim countries could be severe for international enrollments at many higher education institutions,” commented Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of interEDGE — a US-based provider of support services for international students.

“It will dramatically reduce the number of international students not only from the above-mentioned countries but other Muslim-majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”

Meanwhile, the international community has reacted with concern to the ban and the risk it could have on the mobility of staff and students globally. Universities Canada said “the new order is having an impact on Canadian campuses and communities that is real, immediate and profound.”

The organisation went on to say it “does not typically comment on executive action being taken by another country” but did so because of the “real impediment this new executive order poses to the free flow of people and ideas and to the values of diversity, inclusion and openness that are hallmarks of a strong and healthy society”.

Meanwhile, Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson released a statement saying: “The ban has the potential to adversely affect research collaboration, academic conference participation, student exchange programs and postdoctoral work.

“Collaboration is the lifeblood of world-leading university research and is vital to the economies and societies of both of our nations.”

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