University Communities Around the City Rally Behind Students Waylaid by Trump's Travel Ban
Hundreds of students and faculty at area colleges face an uncertain future following President Trump's executive order targeting travelers from seven largely Muslim nations. Some are stranded in their homelands — others are in limbo here. Brooklyn reporter Jeanine Ramirez has the story.
Two dozen City University students and staffers joined the Brooklyn Borough President demanding that graduate student Saira Rafiee be allowed back to New York. The 30-year-old went home to Iran during winter break. But now she can't return to resume her studies toward a PhD in political science at the CUNY Graduate Center, because of President Trump's travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
"Today we ban Muslims, who do we ban next and say they're not allowed to come into the country?" asked Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
"As the president of the union representing 30,000 faculty and staff at CUNY including Ms. Rafiee, we are united here in calling on the government to let Saira in," said Barbara Bowen, President of the Professional Staff Congress.
Rafiee left from Tehran as planned —but was not allowed to fly from Abu Dhabi to New York.
She posted on Facebook that she and 11 other Iranians were detained for nearly 18 hours, before being sent back to Tehran.
Rafiee is one of more than 100 CUNY students potentially affected by Trump's executive order. Hundreds of more foreign students at colleges in the city, and SUNY campuses across the state, find themselves in a similar limbo.
Protests over Trump's action were held Monday at Columbia University, and Hunter College.
NYU's president sent an email to the university community criticizing the executive order.
An NYU PhD student was among those detained at JFK.
According to the American Council on Education, there are more than 13,000 college and graduate students in the United States from countries on the travel ban.
Rafiee lives in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn. More than 40 percent of CUNY students were born outside the United States.
"You cannot set us against immigrants because that is who we are," said Hercules Reid, Student Government President at City Tech. "You cannot walk on any of the 25 campuses without seeing the rich diversity."
On Facebook, Rafiee wrote:
"I have no clue whether I would ever be able to go back to the school I like so much, or to see my dear friends there."