Boston’s Colleges Speak out Against Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban

The schools say Trump's executive order is already wreaking havoc.

Photo via iStock/Marcio Silva

Photo via iStock/Marcio Silva

Leaders from Boston’s colleges and universities spoke out against President Donald Trump’s controversial executive orders banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations and barring all refugees from entering the country.

In a letter to the community, three MIT officials said Trump’s travel ban is “already having an impact on members of our community.”

“While we are very troubled by this situation, our first concern is for those of our international students and scholars who are directly affected. We are working closely with them to offer every support we can,” the letter reads. MIT has advised international students to “fly back to Boston—directly to Logan Airport—as as soon as possible, and before February 4.”

Niki Mossafer Rahmati, an Iranian MIT student, was stopped from boarding her connecting flight to Boston after visiting her home in Tehran for winter break. She is one of the nearly 200 people whom Trump’s executive orders have prevented from entering the United States, and her Facebook post recounting the experience has been shared more than 2,100 times.

Two Harvard scientists from Iran were also barred from entering the country over the weekend. Seyed S. S. Saravi, a Harvard Medical School fellow studying cardiovascular medicine, told the Harvard Crimson it was his “childhood dream” to work at Harvard, while Samira Asgari, medical researcher studying the genetics and genomics of tuberculosis, was reportedly told in Frankfurt, Germany that her visa was no longer valid.

“While questions may at this point be far more apparent than answers, the restrictions are already posing barriers to scholars and students seeking to enter the country and are inhibiting others from pursuing important travel abroad, fearful about their ability to return,” Harvard president Drew Faust said in a letter to the community Sunday. “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.”

Harvard has warned international students against leaving the country. In a Globe op-ed Monday, Boston University president Robert Brown said the United States should offer international students a “heartfelt, unequivocal welcome,” paired with sensible immigration policy.

“The order, now partially stayed by federal judges, may be more symbolic than effective in the long run, but the symbolism is extremely troubling, because it plays to base fears and bias against foreigners and sets us on a path to see every immigrant as a threat,” Brown wrote. “In universities, we see things very differently. We believe that open immigration is good for the long-term health of higher education, our country, our economy, and our society.”

President Joseph Aoun and seven other Northeastern University officials said Trump’s executive order could disrupt the lives of students and faculty, due to the school’s “global nature.”

“While this situation is fluid and uncertain, let us be certain about our commitment to each other. Let us strengthen our resolve to be a welcoming community that embraces the immeasurable benefits of diversity and inclusion,” their letter reads. “All in our community—especially those who feel vulnerable as a result of this new paradigm—should feel safe and secure at Northeastern. We, the leadership of the university, stand with you and will pursue every means available to safeguard each of you—students, faculty, and staff.”

Three Boston College officials condemned the Trump administration’s actions in a letter to the community, invoking the words of Pope Francis, whom Trump once called “disgraceful” during a brief, bizarre feud.

“This Order undermines a key strength of our higher education system, as it turns away talented faculty and students who seek to immigrate to the United States,” the letter reads. “This decision also conflicts with the religious and educational heritage, beliefs, and values of Boston College. The Judeo-Christian faith tradition emphasizes the necessity of caring for strangers and those in need. As Pope Francis recently reminded us, ‘It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help.'”

As recently as October, BC president Rev. William P. Leahy said it was not the role of the school to comment on political matters. Since Trump’s election, Leahy has joined Brown, his Comm. Ave. counterpart, in signing a statement in defense of former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, believed doomed under Trump.