January 31, 2017

After Trump order, NM colleges, universities urge affected students not to leave country

Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump at Arizona rally in March, 2016. Flickr/cc

At least three four-year universities in New Mexico are telling international students affected by President Trump’s controversial executive order affecting immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries to not leave the United States.

The University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology formally instructed international students from any of the seven countries to not travel outside the U.S. in the near future. Trump’s executive order temporarily bars those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the country.

“Citizens of those countries, who wish to return to the US, should not plan to travel abroad at this time,” UNM wrote in a news release Monday.

In his weekly letter to students and faculty, UNM Acting President Chaouki Abdallah noted that Trump’s order affects “more than 100 individuals in the UNM community.”

On Sunday, NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers made a similar call to his students.

“At this time, we advise any NMSU student, faculty or staff member who are citizens of these countries not to leave the United States, even if you are a permanent resident of the United States, because it is unclear when you might be able to return,” Carruthers, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, wrote in an email to students on Sunday.

Trump’s order affects 65 NMSU students, according to university spokeswoman Minerva Baumann. Forty-nine of them hail from Iran while nine are from Libya, four are from Iraq and three are from Yemen.

New Mexico Tech President Stephen Wells took his warnings to students affected by Trump’s ban a step further, advising them to not only not travel outside the country, but also avoid immigration check points in the southern part of the state.

“Do not travel near border areas for the next several months,” Wells wrote Monday in a message to students and faculty. “Also, avoid the border control area south of Truth or Consequences, NM.”

Trump’s order affects 12 New Mexico Tech students and five visiting scholars from the countries listed in his ban, according to the school’s spokesman, Dave Lepre.

Each university also offered words of support to the students affected by Trump’s order.

Abdallah, for example, wrote that UNM “actively recruits and attracts academic talent from around the globe, for the benefit of our State and the Nation.” Carruthers, in his letter, emphasized that “we are all Aggies, and the support we offer to members of the Aggie family is the same, no matter where a student or an employee was born.” Wells wrote that New Mexico Tech is “grateful to count among our international community hundreds of students, faculty, staff and visiting scholars from around the world.”

Other colleges across the state also responded to Trump’s executive order in less affirmative ways.

Trump’s order impacts at least one student at New Mexico Highlands University, according to Sean Weaver, the school’s spokesman.

“That student is on campus and doesn’t plan immediate travel,” Weaver said in an interview. “I believe our international office has already worked with this student.”

Western New Mexico University, located in Silver City, noted it doesn’t believe at this point any students directly affected by Trump’s order are enrolled in the university. Still, spokesman Abe Villarreal spoke about the university’s commitment to students from different backgrounds, noting that the student body consists of people from 18 different countries.

“We are an open-enrollment institution. We accept students of all backgrounds regardless of immigration status,” Villarreal said in an interview. “We will be taking precaution and advising students on a case-by-case basis.”

At Eastern New Mexico University, in Portales, President Steven Gamble said in a statement that “very few” students are affected by Trump’s order.

“We are the process of contacting those students and advising them of the concerns ENMU has if they leave the country and try to return,” Gamble said in a statement to NM Political Report.

Other colleges and universities around the state appear to be analyzing how Trump’s order will affect them.

Santa Fe University of Art and Design spokeswoman Rachael Lighty simply wrote that the university is “currently evaluating the impact” of Trump’s order. And St John’s College President Mark Roosevelt wrote a letter to students expressing his “sorrow about the fear and uncertainty the executive order may have aroused among our international students,” whom he added are “valued members of this community” who have “my support.”

“The situation is fluid, but we will be consulting with experts who can help us understand our international students’ rights and the risks that may be presented to them by travel outside of the U.S.,” Roosevelt wrote.

The impact of Trump’s order on New Mexico students goes beyond the college level. United World College, a Las Vegas-based high school for international students, currently enrolls roughly 240 students from more than 75 countries. Carl-Martin Nelson, the school’s spokesman, said in an interview that Trump’s order “cracks at the heart of our mission.”

Currently, four students from the countries listed in the order are enrolled at United World College. Nelson said that the school’s mission centers around “intense diversity” by having students from around the world work on different types of projects together.

“What we see every day and what makes the world better and stronger and safer is more understanding and more cooperation between countries, not less.” Nelson said.

He added that Trump’s order comes at a time when United World College is making offers to students around the world, potentially putting offers to students in the seven selected countries in jeopardy.