The Immigration Ban & Our Community: UMass' Response

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 27, with the purpose to "protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.” Individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia) are not allowed to enter the U.S. for 90 days. The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program has been suspended for 120 days, and the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. 

While the order cites combating foreign terrorists as its main goal, many view it as targeting the Muslim religion, especially since Trump stated that Christians from the seven countries could receive exemption. The executive order has been challenged in five juridictions for the following: "That Trump’s order violates due process because it takes away the rights of lawful permanent residents without any avenue for recourse; that it violates equal protection laws because it discriminates based on nation of origin and religion; and that it violates the First Amendment by being hostile to Muslims while giving preference to Christians." 

The September 11 attacks were mentioned in the order, yet none of those terrorists were from any of the countries included in the ban (they were actually from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates). Interestingly enough, President Trump has no business ties in any of the countries banned, yet he does have ties with Saudia Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, three of the four countries that the 9/11 attackers were from. Furthermore, no one from the banned countries has killed any Americans in terrorist attacks since 1975. Since then, 20 refugees have been convicted of committing or attempting terrorism in the U.S., while three Americans in total have been killed in attacks by refugees (in the 1970s). Syrian refugees have not committed any acts of terrorism on U.S. soil, and the chance of an American death by a refugee terrorist is one in 3.6 billion. A December 2015 study conducted by George Washington University found that the majority of ISIS recruits in the U.S. have been U.S. citizens or permanent residents.  

University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy has expressed that he will “support and protect every member of our diverse campus community...no matter their national origin, race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, disability or immigration status." The University of Massachusetts Amherst currently enrolls over 3,500 international students, 2,862 international students under UMass immigration sponsorship, over 500 sponsored international scholars and employees, and has taken steps since this executive order to ensure their protection. Seventy-seven of those sponsored are from Iran, two from Syria, and one from Sudan. Since this order, one graduate student, one undergraduate student, and one visiting scholar have not been allowed to enter the U.S. The International Programs Office (IPO) remains in contact with these three individuals, aiding them in legal and other support.

UMass addresses the lack of constitutionality in the order, challenging it legally in association with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The ACLU and private immigration lawyers filed a lawsuit after two associate professors (legal U.S. residents) from UMass Dartmouth were detained at Logan Airport. Attorney General Maura Healey will be one of the first state attorneys to challenge this order.

The campus has created what they call an "Angel Fund," a fundraising effort to ensure that "the legal, academic, housing, living and counseling needs of individuals prevented from re-entering the U.S. while traveling, those who are unable to leave the U.S. as a result of the executive order, or those who are adversely affected by changes in federal immigration policy." A task force is also being developed in an effort to provide resources and work on responding together. The International Programs Office at UMass has been working with and assisting its international students and faculty who have been affected by the ban. UMass works to oppose the order nationally with the American Council on Education, Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, and Association of American Colleges & Universities. 

Additionally, the UMass Police Department (UMPD) will continue not to seek out citizenship or immigration status of students, as they do not enforce federal immigration law. Private information of students will not be shared unless legally mandated. Tuition for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students will not end, and UMass will remain an advocate for such students.  

The town of Amherst issued a statement on Jan. 30 from Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Police Chief Scott Livingstone and Superintendent Dr. Michael Morris. Their priority remains to protect members of the community, "no matter their race or color, gender, physical or mental ability, religion, socio-economic status, ethnic or national origin, affectional or sexual preference, gender identity or expression, genetic information, lifestyle, age, or indeed their immigration status," as well as to "foster a community that is free of fear, intimidation and violence."  Similar to UMPD, the Amherst Police Department will not seek out information regarding immigration status unless necessary to the investigation. The Amherst schools will continue to educate its students regardless of immigration status.

UMass offers resources for its community which may come of assistance or comfort following this executive order.

  • Student Legal Services Office: (413) 545-1995, 922 Campus Center
  • International Programs Office: (413) 545-2710, 467 Hills South
  • Office of Religious and Spiritual Life: (413) 545-9642, 416 Student Union
  • Center for Counseling and Psychological Health: (413) 545-2337, 127 Hills North 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, (413) 577-5000, After-Hours Medical & Mental Health Advice
  • Dean of Students Office: (413) 545-2684, 227 Whitmore Administration Building
  • Faculty and Staff Assistance Program: (413) 545-0350, Ground Floor, 202-205 Middlesex House

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

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