Following the signing last Friday of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries, colleges across the U.S. are working to protect students and faculty affected by the controversial provision. With over one million international students enrolled in American colleges and universities during the 2015-2016 academic year, such a ban stands to have a drastic effect on the U.S. higher education community.
The action has already led to the detainment of some students and scholars attempting to enter the U.S. from the seven nations, including some students who were trying to return to school after spending the winter break in their home countries. Among those prevented from entering the U.S. were two Iranian scholars scheduled to conduct research at Harvard Medical School, according to the Harvard Crimson. A Stanford graduate student was temporarily handcuffed and detained upon returning from a research trip in Sudan before being verified as a legal resident and released, according to a statement issued by the university.
Federal officials also told NBC News that up to 40 students had their F-1 student visas revoked while traveling abroad over the course of the past several weeks. The revoking of visas, which occurred before Trump signed the executive order, has affected students from other Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey and Jordan.
Many colleges have issued statements condemning the ban and cautioning students and faculty from the seven targeted countries against leaving the U.S. lest they be barred from re-entering. Princeton University recommended that individuals from these countries postpone travel “until there is some clarity and legal analysis of the situation” and advised those who must travel to seek legal counsel before doing so.
The Association of American Universities (AAU) released a powerful statement calling for an immediate repeal of the order, which the organization says goes against national interests. The ban could have drastic consequences in regard to the U.S.’s ability to attract foreign students, making the nation less competitive. “Allowing them to replace this country as the prime destination for the most talented students and researchers would cause irreparable damage and help them to achieve their goal of global leadership,” said AAU President Mary Sue Coleman.
A petition that has garnered signatures from more than 12,000 academics also asks Trump to immediately revoke the ban, citing its “unethical and discriminatory” targeting of Muslim immigrants, including those who have already been vetted for admission to the U.S.
Due to the immediacy of and confusion surrounding the enforcement of the ban, it is unclear how much power, if any, colleges and universities will have to protect students and faculty who are barred from entering or re-entering the country.