President Donald Trump’s travel ban has left some students and professors at U.S. colleges stranded abroad.
Middle Georgia schools haven’t received any reports of students or faculty affected by the ruling, but Wesleyan College is urging pupils with visas to take extra precautions before any international travel.
Dozens of colleges are opposing Trump’s measure, and the presidents of several universities issued scathing attacks of Trump’s executive order halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. Many of them said it’s already disrupting research and academics for their scholars, while some suggested they would defy the ban as far as legally possible.
The Association of American Universities, which represents 62 schools, urged Trump to reverse the order and said it will only steer top scholars to countries that compete with the United States.
The ban, which blocks immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, has been put on hold after federal judges in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington state stepped in. But some students and scholars from those countries remain caught in legal limbo, stranded while traveling abroad or visiting home during the recent holiday break.
“We do not currently have students with F-1 or J-1 (full-time student) visas from these countries, but we are aware of how disturbing this is for our international students with family members in these countries,” Patricia Gibbs, Wesleyan College’s vice president for student affairs, said in an email. Gibbs is the school’s “primary designated school official” with the Department of Homeland Security.
Mercer University has four students from countries included in the travel ban, but they haven’t been affected by the executive order, said Kyle Sears, the college’s media relations director. Middle Georgia State University doesn’t have any students or faculty with visas from the seven countries, said Communications Coordinator Sheron Smith. Chief of Staff Kendall Isaac said he was unaware of anyone on campus at Fort Valley State University who has been affected.
Wesleyan College will continue to monitor the situation and keep students informed of all developments, Gibbs said.
“Wesleyan welcomes international students and considers them to be an important part of our learning community,” Wesleyan College Provost Vivia Fowler said in a statement. “We will continue to accept applications from prospective students from around the world and do everything in our power to ensure that they can enroll at Wesleyan and experience the safety, community and dignity they deserve.”
Schools including Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Tufts University in Boston guided students from nations under the ban to avoid all travel outside the U.S. Many of them are advising to students to determine whether it’s safe to travel.
As spring break approaches, some international students were planning to visit home or take academic trips abroad. But now, many colleges are urging them to reconsider. Gibbs has asked that visa-holding students at Wesleyan College meet with her before traveling outside the United States, including for spring break study-abroad programs or vacation travel.
“An unfortunate consequence of the new policy appears to be that students and scholars from designated countries are, for the moment, effectively detainees in this country,” Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and other leaders from the school wrote in a letter.
A Stanford University student from Sudan who is a legal resident in the U.S. was detained for hours after arriving in New York on Friday but later allowed in.
Yale University doctoral student Ali Abdi, who is from Iran, left the U.S. days before the order was signed to conduct research in Afghanistan. Now, he doesn’t know if he can return.
“I cannot go to Iran, my home country, because I’ve been a human rights activist over the past 10 years and I might face some sort of persecution,” he said. “I’m in a situation where it seems I am neither welcome by the Iranian government or the American government.”
University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan said several students and faculty members were traveling abroad when the order was signed, including two professors from Iran who were temporarily detained at Logan Airport in Boston even though they’re permanent U.S. residents.
“This is not the country we promised to them when we invited them to study, teach and conduct research here,” Meehan wrote.
Students and scholars from several other colleges also have been stuck, including from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Clark Atlanta University.
More than 17,000 students from the seven counties affected by the ban studied at American colleges last year, according to data from the State Department and the nonprofit Institute of International Education. More than 12,000 of those were from Iran.
Associated Press writer Wilson Ring contributed to this report.