By Fay Bcharah
Although no Worcester State students have been directly affected by President Trump’s recent executive order limiting travel from seven majority Muslim countries, two could have been if they were traveling abroad, according to a letter from university President Barry Maloney to Dr. Carlos Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education.
The letter states that the new executive order has “been disruptive on our campus in terms of the climate and trust within our community of faculty, staff, and students.”
The letter further states that “international students, paying full out-of-state fees, represent a fiscal necessity for us. Our ability to successfully move into international student recruitment is seriously compromised by the chilling consequences of this order.”
The order would ban citizens from the seven mostly Muslim countries, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Sudan.
A federal judge in Washington blocked the order on Feb. 3, pending further review of its constitutionality. The Department of Justice then requested a stay on this ruling, but the request was unanimously denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last week. The order remains suspended, but the Trump administration may choose to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The impact of the order on Worcester State study abroad programs remains unclear, according to Katey Palumbo, Director of the International Programs Office.
“It should be business as usual,” Palumbo said. “Having said that, it probably won’t be.”
Despite the order’s suspension, it has heightened caution at U.S. airports and embassies.
“The tension will not dissipate,” Palumbo said. “I think people will be much more cautious, perhaps even fearful.”
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Students injected $35.8 billion into the U.S. economy in 2015. The order could potentially jeopardize some of those funds, Palumbo said.
“When they drafted the executive order, they didn’t necessarily take into account just how far reaching it can be,” Palumbo said.
Even so, the order’s suspension has caused things to largely return to normal, at least for now, Palumbo said.
“We’re happy and we think this is good news so far,” Palumbo said. “Let’s hope for the best. And in terms of advising students, that typically should go back to what it was before.”
As for other colleges in Worcester, Behnam Partopour, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Iranian graduate student was overseas when the order was passed. He eventually made it back to the U.S. and the university president met with him when his flight returned in Boston Logan Airport.
Clark University did not have any people directly affected, but their president, David Angel, joined with other university presidents in signing a letter of support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
President Angel sent a message on Jan. 28 to the Clark community stating, “These restrictions negatively impact our core mission of scholarship and teaching, and undermine our capacity to learn from each other within a diverse and global community.”
Amy Daly Gardner, Associate Dean of International Programs at Clark, said she worries the order will discourage international students from coming to America.
“The bigger question in my mind is whether international students from any country, especially a predominantly Muslim one, will decide not to come to the United States because of this,” Gardner said. “After the election, there was concern, but we didn’t know what the administration would actually implement. Now that we know, I think we should be concerned.”
At Worcester Public Schools, the number of new refugee students each year is unknown until the resettlement agencies are informed, said Maureen Binienda, Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools.
“For our current students we continue to provide support daily,” Binienda said. “All staff and support are on alert to support students and families.”
*New Worcester Spy staff contributed reporting to this story