Penn State posters to report illegal aliens, Travel Ban create panic in US universities

By Sujeet Rajan, Posted On : February 13, 2017 2:51 pm

NEW YORK: Tougher immigration enforcement has come to haunt educational institutions in the United States in the wake of a slew of executive orders passed by President Donald Trump, as university officials try to allay fear that international students on F-1 visas are being targeted unfairly, and tension simmers of a witch hunt against undocumented students.

Penn State officials were trying hard to stem a controversy arising from some posters put up on university bulletin boards calling on people to report those in the country illegally.

Officials termed the posters as “deeply offensive,” and that they “appear to be designed to provoke anger, fear and hate,” reported the Associated Press.

Officials said the posters began appearing on public bulletin boards on the main campus at State College. The university’s student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, said images of the posters had been circulating on social media last week. An image published by the paper included the message, “It is your civic duty to report any and all illegal aliens. They have broken the law.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials called the signs “bogus” on Friday, saying the agency wasn’t involved and wouldn’t solicit information in that manner.

The university said in its statement “that every student on this campus has earned the right to be here based on their academic qualifications and hard work, reported AP. “Penn State is enriched by students and scholars from around the world and we will continue our work on providing a climate of inclusion for all, regardless of country of origin,” the university said.

Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, was quoted saying by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the signs caused unease for the student community. He added: “The whole anti-immigrant climate that we’re in. You generate fear and cause people to be suspicious of, and antagonistic to, people because they look and sound different.”

Some other universities too are trying to restore a sense of harmony on campus.

The Statesman reported Stony Brook University passed a resolution on Feb. 6 calling on administration to adopt several policies aimed at protecting university community members who are undocumented immigrants.

“The University Senate felt that it was important to make a statement to protect Stony Brook students, faculty and professional staff who might have been negatively impacted by this executive order,” said Edward Feldman, the University Senate president and an associate professor of clinical family medicine at the School of Medicine, in response to Trump’s Travel Ban, which was later reversed by courts, but in all likelihood will exist in one form or the other through “extreme vetting” as the President has promised.

The resolution urges the administration to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from carrying out immigration enforcement activities on campus unless they present a warrant. It also states that the administration should direct campus police officers to issue tickets instead of making arrests whenever possible.

“An arrest, even for a minor traffic offense, may lead to consequences well beyond the intended punishment or law enforcement purpose for certain immigrant students, such as the issuance of an ICE detainer and possible immigration detention and removal proceedings,” the resolution reads.

Almost 200 Stony Brook University professors and graduate students have also signed the Academics Against Immigration Executive Order petition. The petition was started by a group of academics across the U.S. and has garnered over 40,000 signatures so far, including professors.

Harvard President Drew Faust said recently in a statement to students: “Amid this widespread doubt and unease, we will continue to insist that policymakers take full account of how fundamentally our universities depend on the ability of people to travel across borders without undue constraint,”

On Feb. 13, 17 universities filed a brief supporting a court challenge to Trump’s executive order on immigration, reported the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“While the Executive Order is currently limited to seven countries, its damaging effects have already been widely felt by American universities,” the amicus brief says. “When the Executive Order went into effect, the 90-day suspension of entry left some of amici’s students, faculty, and scholars stranded abroad, while others were unable to leave the United States to travel to their home countries or elsewhere for field research, academic meetings, and family and personal obligations.”

The brief was filed in a civil action sought by New York’s attorney general and others in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The order itself has been stayed pending the resolution of another challenging case out of Washington State.

The universities joining the supporting brief are Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, the Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University.

Fortune reported that US colleges could lose up to $700 million in revenue per year if Trump’s immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries becomes permanent, according to a report released recently by College Factual, a higher education research firm.

During the 2014-2015 school year, international students on F-1 visa contributed more than $30.5 billion to the US economy, based on Department of Commerce data cited by the Institute of International Education, an independent nonprofit that advocates for international education.

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