Northwestern professors sign petition against immigration executive order

Matthew Choi, Campus Editor

More than 130 Northwestern professors signed a petition opposing an executive order by President Donald Trump barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

The petition says the executive order may likely evolve into a “permanent” ban, and that the restrictions are discriminatory and detrimental to American academia. By Monday evening, more than 12,000 academics, including 44 Nobel laureates, had signed the petition.

The order, signed Friday, barred entry to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia from entering the United States for 90 days — a timeline that could be extended with another motion — and blocks refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days. It prevents Syrian refugees from entering indefinitely.

The petition said the executive order unfoundedly targets countries based on racial and religious discrimination that Trump espoused during his 2016 campaign. The order also deprives American universities of academics from abroad and damages ties to international academic institutions, the petition said, as a considerable number of students, scholars and educators come from countries targeted in the order. More than 3,000 students from Iran alone have earned Ph.D.s at American universities, according to the petition.

Economics Prof. David Berger signed the petition after an Iranian friend shared it with him on social media, he said. Berger said the economics department has a high concentration of international faculty and students, and many of his friends at institutions across the country were directly affected by the executive order.

Berger added that the consistent flow of students from abroad to the United States reveals that the country has the best higher education system in the world, and that this executive order is a “repudiation” to core American values of open exchange and “fair treatment.”

“The whole point of a university is the free and open flow of ideas from everywhere,” Berger said. “If you’re the best at what you do, or very good at what you do, you should be able to come to this university.”

The economics department is not the only part of Northwestern faculty feeling the effects of the executive order. Obstetrics and gynecology Prof. Ji-Yong Julie Kim, who teaches at Feinberg School of Medicine, said several of her colleagues are citizens of countries named in the order and added they were worried about their ability to continue working in the United States.

Kim, who was also a signatory, said she hopes the petition will raise awareness on the issue and potentially spark more pressure to revoke the executive order.

“This is the first step,” Kim said. “I’m hoping more and more people become aware of the importance of this issue and that perhaps through this that more action can take place so that this executive order does not happen. Because we cannot go on like this.”

Communication Prof. Hamid Naficy, who signed the petition, said a few of his students were affected by the executive order. They had re-entered the United States from a research trip just days before the order was signed. Although many of his students went out to protest detentions at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Naficy said some students who are citizens of the affected countries were hesitant to speak out in fear of losing their visa.

Not only is the executive order racially discriminatory, Naficy said, but it is also unfounded. No citizen of a country listed in the order has committed a terrorist act in the United States, he said.

“It’s a sign of intolerance in this country,” Naficy said. “It gives proof to the claim of ISIS and other radical hardliners in the Muslim world that the West is against Islam.”

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