Effects of Trump’s Travel Ban on Southwestern University
Following the signing of two executive orders regarding immigration by President Donald Trump, the Southwestern community has been preoccupied finding ways to provide support for its student body, faculty, staff, alumni and their families.
On January 25th, Trump passed an executive order titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” The executive order claimed that immigration through the U.S.-Mexico border has been difficult for the government budgets, agencies working with immigration and border security, and communities where immigrants live. It also cited concerns about drugs being passed through the border, violent crime, and terrorism.
“The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies to deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation’s southern border, to prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate illegal aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely,” the executive order reads.
This involves building a wall on the southern border, detaining immigrants who have broken the law, expediting the process which determines whether people should be able to stay in the United States, hiring 5000 more border patrol agents, and reviewing foreign aid that the U.S. sends to Mexico.
Two days later, Trump passed another executive order titled “Protection the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”
“The United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles,” the executive order reads.
The executive order suspends the entry of foreign nationals from Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Iraq and Yemen for 90 days; all refugees for 120 days and all refugees from Syria indefinitely.
After Trump signed the executive order, chaos descended in airports across the country and worldwide as people from the seven countries were prevented from entering the United States – including individuals with green cards. The future of the executive order is currently up in the air, and a federal appeals court recently rejected a bid to uphold the travel ban while courts consider its lawfulness. The decision will likely be handed up to the United States Supreme Court.
Southwestern University President Edward Burger has sent out several emails to the Southwestern community throughout the past few weeks in regards to the travel restrictions.
“We are carefully monitoring the situation to determine what direct impact this order will have on members of the Southwestern community,” Burger wrote in an email on January 30th. “[Southwestern values] standing with every member of our community regardless of race, creed, nationality, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, sexual orientation or identification, and beyond – and not just those with whom we agree, or who hew to our own political philosophies, but that we respect, engage with, and learn from a diversity of thoughtful perspectives.”
He invited everyone with an opinion on the issue to vote and to contact policy makers or elected officials – a policy that he practices as well.
In an email sent on February 7th, Burger announced that he had signed an open letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly on behalf of Southwestern University along with approximately 600 other colleges and universities nationwide. The letter expresses concerns about the January 27th executive order.
“We are confident that our nation can craft policies that secure us from those who with to harm us, while welcoming those who seek to study, conduct research and scholarship, and contribute their knowledge and talents to our country,” the letter states.
The letter points out that as a result of welcoming scholars and scientists from elsewhere, the U.S. has benefitted – technically, economically and diplomatically.
“Our nation can only maintain its global scientific and economic leadership position if it encourages those talented people to come here to study and work.”
Other Texas colleges and universities that signed the letter were Concordia University Texas, Texas A&M, University of Texas – Austin, University of Texas – Arlington, the University of Houston, Southern Methodist University and Rice University.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues to advocate for such policies that would not only be in the best interests of members of our University community, but also the nation and world,” Burger said in the email.
President Burger recommends that those looking for more information should refer to his emails or contact Vice President for Student Life Jaime Woody.
One of Burger’s emails directs students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni to contact specific offices within the university if they are affected by the ban – for staff, the Office of Finance and Administration; for students, the Office of Student Life; for Faculty, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty; and parents and alumni to the Office of University Relations. No one has contacted the Office of University Relations yet regarding how they are affected by the travel ban, but the office reports several people calling and thanking the university for its efforts to keep the SU community safe. So far, the Office of Student Life has been contacted by one person.
Paul Secord, vice president for Southwestern University relations, said that if an individual called to say they were affected by the travel ban, Southwestern would work with their situation on a case-by-case basis.
“We are lucky – because of our size, we are generally able to have individualized conversations,” said Woody. “Through these conversations, we are able to provide attention to the specific nuances and context.”
Once the specific circumstances of the individual are understood, the next steps are determined. Currently, Southwestern has no students who are citizens from the seven countries mentioned in the executive order.
“We nonetheless recognize that the order has affected far more than those identified by their nationality,” Woody said. “In that sense, it is impossible to say how many are affected.”
Vice President for Finance and Administration Craig Erwin, Dean of the Faculty Alisa Gaunder and Secord all said that the university continues to “monitor” the executive order situation and will “adjust policies as needed.”
“Southwestern will always help and support all members of our community to the best of our ability, both as a university and as individual human beings,” Secord added.
Southwestern already has policies in place which protect the personally-identifiable information for all of its community members – unless requested legally through measures like warrants or subpoenas. Southwestern adheres to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and other privacy laws in order to protect the information of the student body, faculty, staff and alumni.