Immigration ban: At UI, 'this we will not abide'

Immigration ban: At UI, 'this we will not abide'

URBANA — As hundreds of campus protesters marched against the Trump administration's new travel ban Monday, University of Illinois officials said they've created a new working group on immigration to deal with fallout from the president's executive orders.

More than 150 students and scholars at the Urbana campus are potentially affected by Friday's executive order, which restricts immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries for 90 days, suspends refugee admission for 120 days and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely.

UI administrators warned students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty from those countries not to travel outside the United States for now so they're not stranded overseas.

The working group, led by Associate Provost Abbas Benmamoun, will include representatives of key offices across campus, including student affairs, housing and campus legal counsel. The campus is also collecting information on any individuals who may be detained or experience difficulties because of the new executive order.

"This is going to be an ongoing issue for us," Chancellor Robert Jones said Monday.

Jones, UI President Tim Killeen and other top officials issued statements reassuring international students and faculty that the school is working to protect them.

"Overnight, they have been made to feel uncertain about their welcome in this country and our community. We have reached out to these individuals with assurances that they remain more than welcome here: that their presence and contributions sustain Illinois' commitment to be an inclusive land-grant university with a truly global impact," Jones and interim Provost Ed Feser wrote in their mass email to campus Monday afternoon.

"We ask that you join us in standing with those who are affected by the executive order. Together, we will defend the unfettered academic inquiry that is foundational to our intellectually diverse enterprise. Our institutional values demand nothing less of us. The marginalization of international faculty, students, staff and visiting scholars diminishes us all. This we will not abide."

UI students, scholars safe

In a mass email earlier that morning, Killeen and other top administrators strongly recommended that those affected by Trump's order delay travel outside the United States until a fuller assessment is made and legal challenges are resolved.

Seven federal judges issued stays on parts of the executive order over the weekend after some legal residents returning to the United States were detained at airports. The Department of Homeland Security has since tried to clarify it, but Killeen said there have been "mixed messages about that."

Killeen said more than 300 people across the UI's three campuses are potentially affected by the order, including international students, postdoctoral researchers, visiting scholars and faculty members.

They are legal permanent residents, students or scholars here on educational visas, or those holding dual citizenship with the seven countries on the list (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). At the Urbana campus, the largest number is from Iran.

"The folks caught in this were thoroughly vetted and legally here. That's what's really distressing about it," Feser said Monday.

UI officials worked throughout the weekend to contact all students and scholars affected.

"We're happy to report that all of them are aware of the situation and are safe," though the UI is continuing to monitor that, Killeen told The News-Gazette.

Some faculty travel plans have been "significantly disrupted," said Executive Vice President Barb Wilson.

"We don't know of anybody who's stranded right now or can't get back to the U.S.," Wilson said, but some faculty have had to cancel plans to attend meetings or present their research, including one engineering professor who had to cancel his keynote speech at a conference.

"There is a lot of concern and anxiety and consternation in our faculty and student body," Killeen said.

Killeen: Issue is personal

While the Urbana campus has identified 144 students and a dozen or so visiting scholars from those countries so far, Feser said it's difficult to get an accurate faculty count. Some professors have dual citizenship and may list only one, for example. The Office of International Student and Scholar Services tracks only students and visiting scholars, not permanent immigrants, said Director Martin McFarlane.

Killeen said university officials are monitoring events closely and working with other universities, national organizations, legal counsel and government officials to protect international scholars and ensure they're aware of the resources available.

They also plan to reach out to the Illinois congressional delegation to convey the disruption that the policy could cause for international students and faculty, and their families.

"We're urging that the order be reconsidered as quickly as possible," Killeen said.

"We as well as everybody else want to keep our country safe and want to proceed accordingly," he said. But "these actions speak to the heart and soul of what the University of Illinois system is, as an open educator, globally engaged, and of course committed to welcome all members of the international scholarly community that get admitted ... regardless of faith and ancestry."

Killeen, who was born in Wales, said the issue is personal to him as a former green-card holder and now naturalized U.S. citizen.

"The U.S. has been such a wonderful country and generous to me personally. I am an immigrant, as is (UI Chicago) Chancellor Michael Amiridis. We feel on a personal basis that the strength of the U.S. is driven strongly by immigration over the decades," he said.

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CallSaul wrote on January 31, 2017 at 7:01 am

The resistance to Trump's extreme right wing white nationalism is just getting started...

CommonSenseless wrote on January 31, 2017 at 9:01 am

HaHaHa.....Please don't hurt us with your clever words on decorated posters. I'll be sure to buy stock in art supply companies and tissues.

billbtri5 wrote on January 31, 2017 at 9:01 am

...no love for the Cubans?...travel ban was imposed on them not long ago....

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