Troy urges caution in wake of travel ban

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Troy University leaders on Monday cautioned certain international students to avoid travel outside the United States in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting refugee immigration.

In a statement released late Monday, university officials reaffirmed “Troy University’s commitment to the international community” and offered cautions.

“While we honor and respect the Trump Administration’s commitment to national security and protection of this country and its citizens, we know the executive order of Friday has caused concern, especially among our international students,” Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. said in a statement. “The staff of International Programs is keeping careful track of the ramifications of this order and is ready to assist, explain, or otherwise help all students. 

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“We encourage all those on student visas to be especially careful to comply with all regulations that affect status and to avoid any unnecessary risks.  Students from the seven countries directly mentioned (in the order) should avoid any travel outside the U.S. unless absolutely necessary.”

Trump signed the executive order into law on Friday. The order puts a 90-day halt on immigration and travel to the United States from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen and puts a 120-day hold on all refugee admissions. The order has prompted protests and challenges, including court challenges.

While those are being resolved, Hawkins and university officials cautioned students to remain calm.

Hawkins emphasized the university’s focus on international studies in the statement.

“We uphold a thousand-year tradition of universities where students travel to other lands seeking high-quality education,” Hawkins said. “If you understand people unlike yourself – people from other cultures, speaking different languages – then you can develop an appreciation for those people on a personal level. At that point, true and lasting relationships can develop.

“In accordance with ‘the Trojan Way’ we treat all people with dignity and respect regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, country of origin, or belief system.  Together we learn, and together we grow.”

Michael Slobodchikoff, a political science professor at Troy University, said that international students should remain clam but “hold tight” while the order is challenged.

“A ban like this very concerning to everyone involved in international student education, especially the students.” Slobodchikoff said. “Certainly, at this point, we’re waiting to see what happens in the court system as the ban is challenged.”

The immigration and travel ban should come as no surprise, Slobodchikoff said, as it stems from one of Trump’s campaign promises.

“This is a campaign promise that he gave during the campaign and is following through on, so this should be no surprise,” Slobodchikoff said. “The ban itself attempted to make sure it was not specific to any religion, so they were careful about instituting the ban that way.”

Thousands of people have demonstrated at U.S. airports since Trump issued an order Friday blocking people from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa from entering the United States and suspending refugee immigration for four months. The protests included a gathering of several hundred people in Birmingham, the largest airport in a Southern state that Trump carried with ease.

Washington’s state attorney general filed a lawsuit over the order, and a federal judge in New York issued an emergency order temporarily banning deportations of people from the seven nations. Some Republican lawmakers have questioned the order, with Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina saying they fear it will become “a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

Yet none of that criticism matters much in Trump Country, those states and counties where Trump claimed the votes to win the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Retired social-service worker Judith Wilkenroh says the order shows Trump “means what he says.”

“He’s just unafraid. He’s just going ahead like a locomotive, and I like him more and more every time he does something,” said Wilkenroh, 72, of Fredrick, Maryland.

Trump supporters said they are happy with the immigration order and the ideas behind it.

Civil liberties advocates have challenged the order, which temporarily suspends immigration from seven countries and the United States’ broader refugee program. It has drawn nationwide protests since the order was issued on Friday.

Federal judges in New York and several other states issued orders that temporarily block the government from deporting people with valid visas who arrived after Trump’s travel ban took effect. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a Democratic appointee, said Monday she has directed Justice Department attorneys to not defend Trump’s order, as she is not convinced it is lawful.

“Certainly a lot of people are against this from a civil rights standpoint,” Slobodchikoff said. “America is a nation of immigrants and limiting immigration in this way is something many people find very troubling.”