University President Anthony Monaco said in a Jan. 29 email to the Tufts community that the university is committed to helping students impacted by President Donald Trump’s executive order that restricts travel to the United States by nationals of seven Muslim-majority nations.
University response to the order
According to Senior International Officer and Associate Provost Diana Chigas, about 73 Tufts students, staff and faculty were affected by the order. The seven nations affected by the travel ban are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
“Three [community members] were outside the country when the executive order was issued,” she said. “All have returned to Tufts, the last returning on Friday night after he had been stranded overseas for a week.”
Chigas also encouraged those with questions about how the order might affect them to contact her or the Office of University Counsel. Additionally, according to the announcement sent by Monaco’s office, Tufts remains committed to providing legal assistance to those in need of immigration advice.
Assistant General Counsel Dana Fleming noted that students in need of legal assistance should contact university personnel associated with their school. In particular, she said, International Center Director Jane Etish-Andrews is a contact for students, staff and faculty of several schools, including the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering.
In addition, Assistant Director of the School of Medicine’s Office of International Affairs Ghenwa Hakim is a contact for medical students and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s International Student Advisor Reiko Morris is a contact for Fletcher School students.
“The university’s legal counsel office and the university’s senior international officer are working closely with … these offices to provide those affected by the order with information, resources and, if needed, access to outside legal counsel from immigration law specialists,” Fleming told the Daily in an email.
Currently, federal authorities are not enforcing much of the executive order due to a temporary restraining order issued on Feb. 3 by Judge James Robart in Washington. On Feb. 9, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Robart’s temporary restraining order.
Chigas said she has advised members of the international community from the seven countries to avoid discretionary travel outside of the United States due to concerns that they will not be able to return.
Regardless of national origin, religion or citizenship status, Tufts remains committed to protecting the international members of its community, according to Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mary Jeka.
“We understand that members of our international community are very concerned about what the executive order might mean for their ability to travel and work during the summer,” Jeka said. “We have begun discussing these issues with input from the members of our international community and will communicate our plans when they are finalized.”
One community member who was affected by the travel ban is Mehdi Harandi, a visiting scholar from Iran in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He was scheduled to return to Boston just days after the president’s executive order, but as a result of the travel ban, Harandi was left stranded with no way of returning to his work at Tufts. Harandi flew from Tehran to Kiev, Paris, Basel and Munich, before finally landing in Boston on Feb. 3.
Harandi said he was grateful for Fleming’s assistance. He explained that everything went smoothly once he arrived at Logan Airport, and he was out of the airport fairly quickly.
Student concerns at immigration forum
On Feb. 3, hours before Harandi returned from Logan Airport, several Tufts administrators held a forum in Ballou Hall to inform the Tufts community about how the school is dealing with the executive order. Monaco and Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris hosted the forum, which included Chigas and Fleming as panelists. Monaco emphasized that Tufts is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for people of all backgrounds.
“The recent executive order regarding immigration from seven countries has been a matter of serious concern [not only] for us here at Tufts but I think across all higher education,” Monaco said at the forum. “Supporting and protecting our international members is right alongside all of the important values of Tufts as an institution.”
Monaco stated that Tufts’ commitment to international members of its community is part of the university’s emphasis on offering a global perspective to education, and Harris reiterated that the order clashes with Tufts’ goals and character as a university.
“[The order] hits our core values, and you can see in the strategic plan of the university, we talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion, about the importance of having a representative community here and about having a community where everyone feels like they are a full member,” Harris said.
Monaco confirmed that he, along with the presidents of 47 other universities, has signed a letter to Trump, asking the president to rectify or rescind the order. Additionally, Fleming said that Tufts signed an amicus brief with seven other Boston-area institutions in support of a lawsuit against the order, filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
At the forum, several students from the affected countries expressed concerns about how the travel ban might negatively impact their career options, green card applications and Tufts’ admissions process.
Monaco said that as of now, there are no concrete answers to some questions that have come up, and Tufts is focusing on immediate issues caused by the order. However, panelists confirmed that the school will continue to admit students from the countries affected. Monaco also assured students that Tufts will not provide information about students’ immigration status without a warrant or court order.
Monaco said it is important for members of the Tufts community to share personal immigrant stories as a form of resistance against Trump’s actions.
“One of the most powerful things that one can [do to] combat this type of order is [sharing] individual stories of success,” Monaco said. “Working with us and telling us your stories or your friends’ stories arms us with the ability to explain why it is important to rescind this order.”
UPDATE: Since this article’s initial publication, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that upheld the injunction blocking Trump’s executive order. The article has been updated to reflect this change.