Dear Antioch Community:
As you know, on Friday, January 27, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that bars all foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days, and indefinitely halts immigration of all refugees fleeing the brutal civil war in Syria. It also gives Christians fleeing persecution priority over Muslims, inserting a religious test into our refugee program decisions.
Antioch University has a number of students who are from the countries identified in the Executive Order. Those countries include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. While the order contains a few exceptions for those traveling on diplomatic visas, the list of exceptions does not include those traveling on temporary visas such as student H-1B visas or F-1 and J-1 visas. In fact, even travelers with permanent resident status (green cards) were detained at airports over the past weekend, and the order may apply to those with dual citizenship (citizenship in a listed country and another non-US country).
At least four federal courts have issued temporary injunctions enjoining enforcement of much of the Executive Order. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, was stopped from deporting travelers holding green cards or proper visas. Nonetheless, this sudden change in immigration policy has substantially disrupted operations for many American universities and foreign travelers. As a result, we offer the following specific guidance:
- Students, scholars, faculty, and others who might be affected by the order are strongly advised to defer any travel plans outside of the United States until there is further clarity of the impact of the order; this includes travel by car to neighboring countries such as Canada or Mexico.
- If you must travel, we urge you to first consult with legal counsel. If you have family who were intending to travel to the United States to visit, they will need similar legal advice from an immigration lawyer. The fact that you have lawfully been issued a US visa, or even a green card, may not be sufficient to ensure entry or re-entry into the United States.
- I have asked our University Counsel, Rebecca Todd, to prepare a list of immigration lawyers in each of our communities. Some may be among the hundreds of lawyers that volunteered to provide pro-bono services to stranded travelers over the weekend. Please contact our Office of University Counsel at 603-283-2436 for this contact information.
I would like to emphasize that Antioch University supports all of our students, faculty, and employees who are foreign nationals. The University has a long history of being a leader in fostering a diverse and rich educational environment. Even prior to the Civil War, Antioch was one of the first American colleges to enroll African-American students to learn side-by-side with white students. It was one of the first colleges to employ female faculty at the same rank and salary as male counterparts. And we have admitted international students throughout our history. Our educational mission has always been focused on fostering social, economic, and environmental justice and for protecting and promoting the human rights of all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, color, ancestry, national origin, or other immutable characteristics. It was not chance or stroke of serendipity that led Coretta Scott King to Antioch. It was Antioch’s reputation as champions for human rights that caught her attention.
Central to our mission of gaining “victories for humanity,” is the task of teaching empathy for others, a sense of deeply understanding the struggle of our fellow human beings around the globe. We can better foster that sense of empathy and compassion through diverse student and faculty bodies, able to communicate openly, share different perspectives and experiences, and learn from one another. From that, we generate trust and understanding and foster the hope for greater peace in the world. So, from a purely pedagogical point of view, higher education has a significant stake in our national immigration policy. The diversity of our classrooms is one of the greatest strengths of American colleges and universities which are still regarded as among the best in the world.
From a more national perspective, we understand that we are a nation of immigrants, that our strength as a country derives largely from our diversity, and that these values as a nation and a people are what make America great. Few of us need to look very far back in our genealogies to discover our foreign roots. My family, for example, emigrated by ship from Ireland in 1851. They, and one million others, fled Ireland in the midst of the historic potato famine. Another one million Irish souls starved to death. But for the generosity of the American people, many more surely would have died. Those seeking refuge from the civil war in Syria are no less in need, and we cannot let fear hijack our values as a country.
Thirty-seven years after my ancestors immigrated, a colossal copper statue was gifted to the United States by the French people to honor our shared struggle for freedom and liberty. In an effort to raise funds for the construction of the massive base for the statue, Emma Lazarus penned a simple verse, The New Colossus, now inscribed in bronze at the base of the statue. We can all recite part of it: “Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” No other text better captures the value of who we are, or aspire to be, as a people and as a nation. (See full text of The New Colossus below.)
The Executive Order has been harshly and widely criticized over the past several days because it does such violence to our national values with little or no justification. The US attorney general would not defend it in court believing it to be unconstitutional, and over 1,000 State Department personnel and Foreign Service officers have signed a dissent cable arguing that the Executive Order was wholly unnecessary and counterproductive to our national security. The full cable can be viewed at https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3438487/Dissent–Memo.pdf. It concludes with the following paragraph:
We do not need to place a blanket ban that keeps 220 million people – men, women and children – from entering the United States to protect our homeland. We do not need to alienate entire societies to stay safe. And we do not need to sacrifice our reputation as a nation, which is open and welcoming, to protect our families. It is well within our reach to create a visa process which is more secure, which reflects our American values, and which would make the Department proud.
For those reasons, I have joined other higher education leaders in calling for President Trump to rescind the Executive Order and to work with his Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to make reasonable and appropriate improvements in the visa programs in a way that does not unjustly and illegally target people of the Muslim faith or people from specific countries. For example, on Saturday, the Association of American Universities, (AAU) issued a statement that we fully support calling for the repeal of the Executive Order. The full text is available at http://www.aau.edu/news/article.aspx?id=18366.
In the meantime, Antioch University and its leadership will do what it can to protect the rights and interests of our foreign students, employees, and their families. In large part that will include enforcing long-standing University policies as follows:
- Antioch will continue to admit and support students without regard to their citizenship status or immigration status.
- We will continue to enforce our anti-discrimination policies which prohibit harassment and discrimination based on race, religion, gender, color, ancestry, and national origin. Students who feel threatened, harassed, or intimidated because of any such reason should immediately contact their campus Chief Student Services Officer to make a complaint. A table with contact information is included below.
- Antioch University will continue to comply with all federal requirements related to our admission of foreign students and our management of any international study opportunities. Other than that, the University will not share sensitive student information such as immigration or citizenship status with others.
- The University will continue to enforce its policies regarding privacy of student records under FERPA. We do not provide information about immigration status unless required to do so by law or lawful subpoena.
- The enforcement of immigration laws is the responsibility of various federal departments including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and its Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We will support our students and employees in their interactions with any of those agencies. When required to do so by law, the University will, of course, comply with any lawful orders or directives from such agencies.
Antioch will continue to monitor the likely changes in immigration law and policy that could impact the status, safety, and security of our students, faculty, and staff, particularly our international students and our students who are undocumented. We will also continue to join with other higher education associations and institutions to advocate for proper immigration reform in a way that honors our national values.
THE NEW COLOSSUS
NOT LIKE THE BRAZEN GIANT OF GREEK FAME,
WITH CONQUERING LIMBS ASTRIDE FROM LAND TO LAND;
HERE AT OUR SEA-WASHED, SUNSET GATES SHALL STAND
A MIGHTY WOMAN WITH A TORCH, WHOSE FLAME
IS THE IMPRISONED LIGHTNING, AND HER NAME
MOTHER OF EXILES. FROM HER BEACON-HAND
GLOWS WORLD-WIDE WELCOME; HER MILD EYES
COMMAND THE AIR-BRIDGED HARBOR THAT TWIN
“KEEP ANCIENT LANDS, YOUR STORIED POMP!” CRIES SHE
WITH SILENT LIPS. “GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR POOR,
YOUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BREATHE
FREE, THE WRETCHED REFUSE OF YOUR
SEND THESE, THE HOMELESS, TEMPEST-TOST TO ME,
I LIFT MY LAMP BESIDE THE GOLDEN DOOR!”
William R. Groves, JD