Allegheny College students, faculty and administrators gathered in the Pelletier Collaboratory at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, to discuss implications of President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders on immigration and the college’s response to the order.
Executive Order 13769, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” was signed by Trump last Friday, Jan. 27. It bans entry into the U.S. from seven countries—Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen—for a period of at least 60 days, citing that allowing migrants from these areas would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” The president can add countries and extend the length of the ban at will.
This executive order allows for the entry of religious minorities from the seven majority-Muslim countries.Trump cites the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as justification for the order.
“The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States,” the order reads. “Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.”
NPR reports that none of the Sept. 11 attackers were from any of these nations.
Equally contentious is Trump’s Executive Order 13767, which calls for the “immediate” construction of a physical wall along the contiguous land border between the U.S. and Mexico. The order declares that the barrier between the two nations shall be “impassable.” Trump’s order also calls for the deportation of Mexican immigrants who entered the country illegally.
Ron Cole, provost and dean of the college; Ali Awadi, director of public safety; Ande Diaz, associate provost for diversity and organizational development; Kimberly Ferguson, dean of students; Terry Bensel, associate provost and director of the Gateway; justin adkins, director of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Social Justice Center; and Lenee McCandless, associate director of International Education, were present at the dialogue.
“I want to assure everyone that the college will offer all the support it is able to,” Cole said. “The people around you are resources.”
As Allegheny continues attempts to increase its student population’s diversity, it admits a growing number of international students. The Campus reported on Aug. 25, 2016, that the Class of 2020 includes students from 24 countries outside the U.S.
Cole said that James Mullen, the college’s president, has been in the District of Columbia this week in meetings with the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, with whom Mullen serves as a trustee. NAICU has drafted a letter opposing Trump’s executive orders, which Cole said Mullen will sign both as a trustee of the association and as Allegheny’s president.
The college, according to adkins, has started drafting a policy on what it would do if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement showed up on campus asking for a specific person.
“We’ve got staff and faculty who are here on visas as well,” adkins said.
Protocol will likely include directing ICE to the Dean of Students Office if they are searching for a student, or to Human Resources for information regarding an employee of the college, according to adkins. Ferguson said federal immigration officers need a warrant to access information regarding any person on campus.
“We’re getting counsel on how to identify what proper documentation looks like,” adkins said.
Cole said the college will do everything in its power to protect students from the executive orders.
“We’re going to provide as little information [to ICE] as possible,” Cole said.
“And/or delay the process,” Awadi added.
Ferguson said the procedure being developed with regards to immigration is directly related to Trump’s executive orders, but it clarifies the college’s current procedure.
“We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary,” Ferguson said. “We’re just clarifying our policies as an institution.”
Allegheny has recently hired a new part-time counselor, according to Ferguson, who has experience working with international students and refugees.
Disagreements with the executive order regarding the visa ban has extended to federal judges and Trump’s acting attorney general. In places such as Boston, federal courts have struck sections of the action down as unconstitutional. Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, told the Department of Justice not to defend the order. Trump responded by firing her on Monday, Jan. 30, the same day Yates gave the order.
The Department of Homeland Security took steps to define what U.S. Customs and Border Protection would do to enforce the executive order while remaining compliant with court rulings, stating that permanent residents will be affected as little as possible.
“In applying the provisions of the president’s executive order, the entry of lawful permanent residents is in the national interest,” the DHS wrote in a press release dated Monday, Jan. 30. “Accordingly, absent significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations.”
Despite these clarifications, many are still wondering what actions will be taken to enforce the orders.
“I don’t know what to prepare for,” Cole said. “But we ought not to be sitting idle.”
The college, according to Cole, is working with an immigration lawyer to determine what actions it should take. Cole said plans are being made to bring the lawyer to campus next Tuesday, Feb. 7, likely from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., to answer any questions international students may have regarding the orders.
McCandless said the ambiguity of the executive order gives reason for caution.
“There were people not from these seven countries who were detained, and that’s a part of why we’re having this meeting,” McCandless said.
Ferguson said that international students who are going to an airport—regardless of whether or not they are traveling internationally—should contact McCandless.
“Even if you’re not from one of these countries, if you have ever visited these countries—even for a 20-minute layover—see me or immigration counsel before leaving the country,” McCandless said.
No student raised specific concerns during the dialogue, but international students were granted a private meeting 30 minutes before the public meeting in which they could discuss concern over immigration status, Bensel said.
McCandless said that students should focus on what they would normally focus on had this order not been signed.
“Right now you should really focus on being a student, having the best experience you can,” McCandless said. “We will support you through this.”