University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst’s decision to form an exploratory committee with the purpose of investigating the effects of President Donald Trump’s immigration ban on UConn students is a proactive one.
This action is the logical responsibility of the university president and her staff, as the restrictions implemented by Trump have cast confusion onto the status of international students at the university. The university administration may have to take special measures in order to protect international students, and research is a good first step.
As of right now, UConn’s administration has been saying all the right things. Herbst’s email to the student body on the matter frankly acknowledged some of the details of the immigration prohibition, and offered hope to international scholars.
“On Friday, an executive order was issued by the White House that, among other actions, bars people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the U.S. for a period of time,” the email read. “Like many other American colleges and universities, we are working to understand the implications this order will have on our international students, faculty, and visitors who may be planning to travel to or from the U.S. during the period of time this order is in effect.”
Trump’s move forbids “travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days” and stops “all refugee admission for 120 days,” according to CNN. Herbst’s email also noted that UConn has 1,400 international students from 109 different countries.
UConn’s International Student and Scholar Services’ (ISSS) website posted an update on Jan. 30 that provided a schedule for discussion and information sessions on the executive order, while also pointing out that “several U.S. schools have reported…students having their visas revoked,” and that students and scholars with visas should to watch their emails closely.
ISSS wrote in their update that students from the aforementioned seven countries “should not travel for the time being, as you may not be able to reenter the U.S. This includes dual citizens who hold passports from one of the seven designated countries, as well as a non-designated country, even if you plan to travel on the passport of the non-designated country.” The website advised students from these countries “to consult with an immigration attorney before traveling” and to “email firstname.lastname@example.org” for more details.
The travel ban is concerning not only campus-wide, considering UConn has had bouts with Islamaphobia in the recent past, as reported in a Nov. 16, 2015 story by the Daily Campus, but also nationally, as Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric has been solidified into reality. Borne from bigotry, the directive is, moreover, unconstitutional, these two aspects of the order crystallized in one simple sentence, which states that, after the 120 days, alterations could be made, “to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”
This boils down to preferring Christian refugees over Muslim refugees, and violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which bars “the government from making any law ‘respecting an establishment of religion.’” Legal experts, such as now-former Attorney General Sally Yates, understood Trump’s order to be illegal. His response has been to either relieve them of their position, as he did to Yates, or ignore them.
The Trump administration’s flaunting of international mores, constitutional law and the (relative) compassion America has extended toward refugees in the past is abhorrent. The fact that UConn’s bubble, as well as those of institutions of higher education around the country, has been punctured by Trump’s irrational resolution is an unfortunate reality.
UConn has already shown signs of reasonably responding to this situation, but it is up to every American – citizen, friend, neighbor, visitor or otherwise – to reject Trump’s repressive, narrow view of the world.
Sten Spinella is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.