Harvard Affiliates Protest Revised Immigration Ban

As Harvard administrators work to respond to President Donald Trump’s revised immigration order, hundreds of Harvard affiliates and local residents rallied in Harvard Square Tuesday to condemn the order and call on the University to do more.

The executive order, signed Monday and effective March 16, suspends visa applications from six predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days and bars all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. Current visa holders, green card holders, and dual citizens from the listed countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—are not affected by the ban.

The new order amends a previous executive order on immigration, which was marked by administrative confusion and generated uproar at Harvard and across the country. That order, signed Jan. 27, also included Iraq on the list of implicated countries and prevented current visa holders from those seven countries from entering the U.S.—including at least four Harvard affiliates. A federal appeals court ruling effectively suspended that order on Feb. 9.

At the rally, organized by the Harvard Islamic Society, international and Muslim students drew cheers from the crowd as they denounced the ban as Islamophobic and unconstitutional.

“This time, when he’s trying this more sanitized and supposedly more legal approach, we’re still here to say that we still see this for what it is: state-sanctioned bigotry that harms all of our communities and makes all of us less safe,” said Anwar Omeish ’19, a rally organizer and director of external relations for the Harvard Islamic Society.

Cambridge police officers blocked off streets as protesters marched up Massachusetts Ave. to Cambridge Common, chanting, “No walls, no deportation, no Muslim registration!”

As students and affiliates took the streets, administrators continued their efforts to respond to the changes in federal policy. University President Drew G. Faust addressed the updated order at the Faculty's monthly meeting Tuesday.

“Although the order is more narrowly drawn than its predecessor, I remain deeply troubled about its implications for Harvard," Faust told faculty members. “We face a very real risk that students and scholars from all corners of the globe may no longer see Harvard and other U.S. universities as attractive places to pursue their studies."

Faust said uncertainty lingers about how the new order will impact visa waivers, scholars’ ability to attend conferences, and the ability of the University to attract international students.

"We’re in the process of reviewing the details of the travel limits," Faust said at the faculty meeting.

The Harvard International Office, which recently updated its website with additional information, sent a message to international students and scholars Wednesday evening explaining the new order and warning visa applicants from the six countries to expect delays in visa screening and processing.

The email also “strongly” encouraged international students and scholars to take additional precautions when travelling abroad, including registering trips with the Harvard Travel Registry and contacting Harvard Travel Assist if they have difficulty re-entering the United States.

To affiliates from the six countries implicated in the current executive order, HIO Director of Immigration Services Maureen Martin said, “we’re telling them not to travel without talking to our office first.”

While Faust sent a University-wide message after the first executive order on immigration, she has not sent a message about the new order to the entire school.

According to the Harvard International Office, Harvard has 134 primary visa holders from the six countries, 77 dependents affiliated with those visa holders, and 17 pending visa applicants. Among the six countries, Iran is the most represented most, Martin said.

Martin said that under the new order, the 17 pending applicants who receive visa stamps before March 16 can enter the country. The HIO will continue to issue visa paperwork to applicants abroad, Martin said, but whether those applicants are granted visas will depend on U.S. embassies.

“There isn’t really anything a university can do to speed up the process at an embassy,” Martin said.

Martin said, however, that the HIO does have the ability to extend visas for students and scholars still enrolled in qualifying Harvard programs, and can help students whose visas will expire upon graduation this spring to prolong their stay by switching their visa status.

While the University took a number of steps to respond to the initial immigration order, some at the rally Tuesday were critical of how Harvard has dealt with the policy changes.

Last month, Faust sent a message to the University condemning the first order and joined other university presidents in signing a letter to Trump imploring him to reconsider the ban. Harvard also held several information sessions for international students, and administrators have designated Boston immigration attorney Jason Corral—who the University hired to counsel undocumented students—with providing legal advice to affiliates impacted by the orders. Faust also announced the appointment of Harvard’s first full-time Muslim chaplain.

But hundreds of Harvard affiliate have charged that the University had not responded quickly or sufficiently enough, and more than 600 affiliates signed a petition demanding increased financial, legal, and mental health support. Since, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where many international students study, has pledged to provide financial assistance and adjust the time frame in which students must complete their Ph.D.—or “G-clock”—if they are stranded abroad.

Central administrators have not responded to the petition, and graduate student Laura Correa Ochoa reiterated demands for a response at Tuesday’s rally in Harvard Square.

“We need more institutional guarantees from Harvard and far more direct legal support,” Correa Ochoa said through a megaphone to the crowd. “It not only has the resources to do so; it should be a leader against the policies of the Trump administration.”

Asked for comment, University spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson pointed to a statement in the HIO email to international affiliates Tuesday.

“The HIO is working with offices and key stakeholders throughout the University to offer resources and support,” the email reads.

The HIO will hold an informational meeting Wednesday morning in Sever to address questions and concerns related to the impact of the order on Harvard affiliates.

—Staff writer Claire E. Parker can be reached at claireparkerdc@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @ClaireParkerDC.

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