The University Senate passed a resolution on Feb. 6 calling on Stony Brook University’s administration to adopt several policies aimed at protecting university community members who are undocumented immigrants.
The resolution was passed in response to President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order preventing citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. The travel ban prompted protests at airports across the country as travelers from the affected nations were either prevented from boarding U.S.-bound planes, or detained at U.S. airports upon arrival.
“The University Senate felt that it was important to make a statement to protect Stony Brook students, faculty and professional staff who might have been negatively impacted by this executive order,” said Edward Feldman, the University Senate president and an associate professor of clinical family medicine at the School of Medicine.
The resolution urges the administration to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officials from carrying out immigration enforcement activities on campus unless they present a warrant. It also states that the administration should direct campus police officers to issue tickets instead of making arrests whenever possible.
“An arrest, even for a minor traffic offense, may lead to consequences well beyond the intended punishment or law enforcement purpose for certain immigrant students, such as the issuance of an ICE detainer and possible immigration detention and removal proceedings,” the resolution reads.
The resolution mirrors several statements made by Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.
“We do not share private information; once a student is enrolled we protect student confidentiality in line with federal and state law; and, our University Police Department does not inquire into nor record the immigration status of students or other persons unless they have been arrested,” he said in a Nov. 18 message. “Also, it is important for us to understand that ICE policy characterizes colleges and universities as ‘sensitive locations’ – places where enforcement actions should not occur outside of extraordinary circumstances.”
In a Feb. 2 letter, Stanley, along with dozens of other university presidents, urged Trump to reconsider his Executive Order because it threatens both higher education and American ideals.
“Their [immigrants’] innovations and scholarship have enhanced American learning, added to our prosperity, and enriched our culture,” the letter to Trump reads. “This action unfairly targets seven predominantly Muslim countries in a manner inconsistent with America’s best principles and greatest traditions.”
Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president, said at Monday’s University Senate meeting that Stanley’s office has received multiple inquiries about whether Stony Brook can be a sanctuary campus, referring to college campuses that adopt specific policies to protect undocumented immigrants.
“The SUNY Board of Trustees is the only entity that would have the authority to do that – not university presidents,” Greiman said. Stanley’s report was delivered by Greiman because he was in Albany meeting with lawmakers.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher urged the SUNY Board of Trustees in a Jan. 24 memo to adopt a similar resolution affirming support for undocumented students. The Board of Trustees has not publicly responded. SUNY did not respond to requests for comment.
Almost 200 Stony Brook University professors and graduate students have also signed the Academics Against Immigration Executive Order petition, including Charles Taber, who is the dean of the Graduate School, the vice provost for graduate education and a political science professor.
In an email, Taber described the executive order as “discriminatory, detrimental to our national interests, and poses severe and inhumane burdens on members of our community. More important, I believe this executive order threatens the values of inclusion, compassion and cultural diversity on which our democratic nation was built and from which our institutions of higher education draw their strength.”
The petition echoes the Feb. 2 letter to Trump from the college presidents. In addition to calling the executive order “un-American,” the petition also argues that banning students from the seven affected countries will damage research efforts.
“United States research institutions directly benefit from the work of thousands of researchers from the nations affected by this executive order,” the petition reads. “The United States academic community relies on these talented and creative individuals for their contributions to cutting-edge research.”
The petition was started by a group of academics across the U.S. and has garnered over 40,000 signatures so far, including professors, graduate students, Nobel Laureates and members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and the Arts.
Trump’s executive order and subsequent travel ban immediately affected the Stony Brook University community. Graduate Student Organization President Vahideh Rasekhi was temporarily detained at JFK International Airport from Jan. 28 to Jan. 29 after returning from Iran.
The two-week-old executive order banning travelers from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan has attracted near-constant attention and a fast-paced legal battle. A Brooklyn judge issued an emergency stay on Jan. 28, just one day after Trump announced the order. Several states sued the government, and a Washington state judge issued a temporary restraining order on Feb. 3, suspending the ban. A federal appeals court denied the Department of Justice’s request for an emergency ruling to overturn the Washington judge’s decision but agreed to hear arguments from both sides on Feb. 7. The appeals court ruled on Feb. 9 to uphold the restraining order, indicating that the issue could now potentially be heard in front of the Supreme Court.