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Campuses Checking On International Students, Faculty After Trump Order

29 Jan 2017 5:24 pm
By Melissa Korn 

University leaders are scrambling to account for students, researchers and faculty members from seven countries temporarily banned from entering the U.S. or getting new visas under an executive order issued by President Donald Trump.

A Brooklyn federal judge's order late Saturday blocking parts of his ban added additional layers of uncertainty and complexity for the campuses.

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly issued the stay preventing the deportation of refugees, visa holders and other individuals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan who had been detained on entry to the U.S. The judge said such deportations could cause "irreparable harm" to refugees who face threats in their Muslim-majority countries or have family members already living here.

The judge's ruling doesn't cover individuals who are still overseas.

More than 17,000 students from the seven countries listed in Mr. Trump's order were enrolled at U.S. schools in the 2015-2016 year, according to the Institute of International Education, while more than 2,000 such teachers and researchers were at U.S. colleges and universities.

Many college presidents and higher education associations, including the Association of American Universities, which represents 62 major schools, and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, representing 267 state and land-grant institutions and affiliated organizations, issued statements Saturday condemning Mr. Trump's order and warned it could damage the U.S. role as a leader in global academics.

Both groups reacted Saturday before the ruling by Judge Donnelly.

"We...urge the administration, as soon as possible, to make clear to the world that the United States continues to welcome the most talented individuals from all countries to study, teach, and carry out research and scholarship at our universities," said Mary Sue Coleman, president of the AAU.

Margaret Everett, vice provost for international affairs and dean of graduate studies at Portland State University in Oregon, said a visiting professor who is an Iranian citizen was supposed to fly Saturday to the U.S. from Finland -- where he lives and teaches full-time -- and was turned away.

"There can't be anybody in higher education who isn't concerned about the chilling effect that this will have not only on students from these countries but from all international destinations," she said.

Portland State has 76 students from the affected countries, most of them enrolled in graduate programs. She said that the academic quarter was already well under way, so most students are on campus in the U.S.

Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, said in an interview Saturday that while the association is hearing stories from member schools about individuals affected by the order, it doesn't know exactly how many people are unable to return to campuses.

Samira Asgari, an Iranian national living in Lausanne, Switzerland, was set to begin a postdoctoral fellowship this week at a Harvard University lab that studies the genomics of immune diseases. She successfully flew to Frankfurt, Germany, but was turned away when trying to board a flight to Boston, according to Soumya Raychaudhuri, the Harvard Medical School researcher who had recruited Dr. Asgari.

"She noted that she had a visa but the person told her that visa was no longer valid," Dr. Raychaudhuri said in an interview Saturday.

Dr. Asgari, whose project is centered on tuberculosis,wrote Saturday on Twitter Saturday about her experience: "I was pretty excited to join (Dr. Raychaudhuri 's) lab but denied boarding to my Iranian nationality. Feeling safer?"

Dr. Raychaudhuri said that for decades, the U.S. had been a place that facilitates international scientific dialogue, which is increasingly important as seeking cures for diseases becomes a global effort.

"So this is very much at odds with that view," he said.

The Office of International Students and Scholars at Michigan State University advised individuals from the seven affected countries on Saturday not to leave the U.S. "unless absolutely necessary" -- in part because it isn't clear how visa requirements may change even after the 90-day moratorium is complete.

--Jennifer Levitz contributed to this article.

Write to Melissa Korn at melissa.korn@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 29, 2017 12:24 ET (17:24 GMT)

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