Members of the Brandeis community attended a panel discussion on Wednesday evening to address President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order on immigration. The audience, who filled over half of the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) theater, consisted of not only undergraduate and graduate students, but also faculty and other Brandeis community members as well.
Immigration attorney Madeline Cronin, of Iandoli Desai & Cronin P.C., was in attendance to provide background on immigration policy, legal context and answer questions.
The executive order suspends the United States Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, reduces the number of refugees America will accept to 50,000 (the lowest in a decade) and indefinitely halts processing and admission of Syrian refugees, according to a PowerPoint that Cronin presented at the panel.
The executive order also lists seven countries—Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen—from which both immigrants and nonimmigrants are no longer allowed to enter into the United States (at least for the next 90 days), Cronin said. Visa interviews will also be delayed for all nationalities, even if they are not from the seven listed countries.
Cronin advised that people concerned about their status know their rights so they can be prepared in case of questioning, memorize phone numbers for family members and an attorney and have a trustworthy American citizen in mind who can pay bond if needed.
There are many ways in which students have already been affected by the order, and the panel tried to address those directly affected as well as inform those who are not. “Our students and scholars from the seven countries listed in the executive order … are going about their studies, research and teaching with the added anxiety of having their travel outside of the United States is restricted,” said Jodi Hanelt, director of the ISSO (International Students and Scholars Office), in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.
She listed additional difficulties for students who have graduated or are preparing to graduate in May: those who are waiting for work authorization (associated with an F-1 visa), are stuck because United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has stopped adjudicating their cases, she said. Those expected to graduate in May who are from the seven listed countries are “likely to experience delays in processing benefits to which they are entitled, namely travel and work permission,” according to Hanelt.
Only seven countries are listed on the executive order, but anyone from any country who is concerned about their status should contact the ISSO, according to Hanelt. They can also refer to the PowerPoint shown during the panel, which is posted on the ISSO’s website.
Much of the panel revolved around students posing questions, often directed toward Cronin or Hanelt, asking for advice about how they should proceed in regard to their specific situation.
Panelists agreed that students who are unsure about their status should not travel outside the United States at this time. There is too much uncertainty about how the order could change, according to Cronin.
“We want our students and scholars to carefully consider travel that is required and that which can be deferred,” said Hanelt in an email to The Hoot. “We encourage dialogue with anyone having doubts about travel, work permission and continuing studies here in the U.S.”
While the ISSO and the Brandeis community are working to keep the community updated as new information is released and to provide as much support as possible, it is still undecided whether or not Brandeis is considered a “sanctuary campus.” This is largely because the phrase has never been clearly defined.
“There is actually not a consensus on what that term means, and some advocates for undocumented students and students themselves have even advised against using such language as it could draw unwanted attention,” said Mark Brimhall-Vargas, chief diversity officer, and Andrew Flagel, senior vice president for students and enrollment, in a joint email response to The Hoot. “In essence, while the term may make some people feel safer, it can also have the opposite effect with others who share undocumented status.”
Brimhall-Vargas elaborated at the panel, saying that although the term sanctuary campus is unclear, Brandeis’ values are not. “We are going to protect, to the extent that we can, our most vulnerable population … We are absolutely opposed to these actions that are being undertaken by the current administration,” he said. “We’re going to behave in a way that’s consistent with our values, we just have to figure out what that is.”
Provost Lisa Lynch added that there are many in the community who have already asked what they can do to help and offered assistance. She is working with the Alumni Council to create an alumni group to work as pro bono immigration lawyers. “We’ve had parents of Brandeis students who have reached out to various offices who have offered up their homes and employment opportunities for students who may find themselves in the situation this summer where they cannot travel and they need housing and assistance,” she said.
Hanelt emphasized the importance of support and a willingness to help during this time. “We don’t want anyone to feel alone. There has been an outpouring of support from the Brandeis community both locally and around the country and world. We want our international community to feel that embrace and know that we are all walking beside them with positive intentions and a commitment to caring and holistic support,” she said.
Anyone who is concerned is encouraged “to use ISSO as a resource, as well as the Intercultural Center (ICC), Academic Services, Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, the Brandeis Counseling Center and any other part of the university where people feel comfortable talking about their concerns,” said Hanelt.