March 7, 2017

Whitehouse Hears Concerns From URI Students, Faculty Union About Trump’s Immigration Policy

Students, faculty from affected countries cite uncertainty surrounding executive orders

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse yesterday hosted a forum about President Trump’s executive order on immigration that drew about one hundred members of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Chapter of the American Association of University Professors and undergraduate and graduate students.  The event took place at URI’s Multicultural Center on the Kingston campus.

“The students and faculty I heard from are conducting research and learning skills to better our community,” said Whitehouse, “But their futures in America are uncertain because of President Trump.  I’m committed to working closely with the University to help those affected navigate the latest executive order limiting immigration, as the President’s policies have already caused significant confusion and heartache.”

The University of Rhode Island has dozens of students and faculty who are citizens of majority-Muslim nations targeted by President Trump’s executive orders on immigration, and University faculty conduct research in some of those countries.  Students on visas from the affected countries questioned whether they would be able to find employment in the United States.  Members of the faculty expressed concerns about their ability to recruit students and hire post-doctoral fellows or international scholars.

“We’re grateful to Senator Whitehouse for joining us to talk about immigration policy and for listening carefully to the stories presented by URI faculty and students,” said Jay Walsh, Ph.D., Executive Director of the URI Chapter of the American Association of University Professors.  “Scholarship has no boundaries.  An executive order that prevents some scholars from entering the country will limit the production of knowledge and limit the kinds of relationships we need to build around the world so we can improve our lives and communities.  We need to have immigration policies in place that prioritize humanity over fear.”

President Trump signed an executive order in January banning travel from certain majority-Muslim countries and freezing the refugee program, immediately undermining the legal status of thousands of individuals and families, including legal permanent residents and refugees already in transit, and setting off chaos at airports across the country.  A federal appeals court halted that order nationwide.

President Trump yesterday signed a new version of the executive order, which kept many of the original elements of the travel ban enacted in January.  The order signed yesterday bars travel from six countries instead of seven, removing Iraq from the list of affected countries, and does not give preference to religious minorities.  The new directive also indicates green card holders and refugees already approved by the State Department can enter the United States.

“After our courts rejected his first attempt, President Trump thinks he can repackage this un-American order,” added Whitehouse.  “This version, just like the last, empowers terrorists to define America as the bad guy, pitting us against the world Muslim community.  That makes us less safe, and it betrays who we have been as a nation since Roger Williams established religious freedom in Rhode Island nearly four hundred years ago.”

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