What You Can Do About the Travel Ban

Practical things academics can do to help colleagues affected by the U.S. travel and immigration ban.

Last week, President Donald Trump issued a 90-day prohibition on entry to the U.S. by nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The same executive order blocks all refugee admissions for 120 days, with the exception of Syrian refugee admissions, which are suspended indefinitely.

Lawyers got to work, with mixed results. Some people from the seven countries have indeed been prevented from entering the U.S.; others have not. Suffice it to say that, for now, travel to the U.S. for nationals of those countries is very uncertain. And indeed, Muslims from countries other than the affected seven, as well as members of other marginalized groups, may well be wary about entering the U.S.

By now, you will likely have received communications from your professional organizations about how they’re responding to the ban. The Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Ontario Council of Faculty Associations, and University of Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur have all issued statements too.

Beyond such statements though, what practical measures can you take in response to the travel ban? Herewith, in no particular order, is an initial round-up of practical things you can do. If you have other ideas, please add a comment below this post. We’ll update the list as we receive your ideas.

Things to keep in mind

  • don’t presume that only people from the seven countries listed in the executive order are choosing not to travel to / leave the U.S.; many nationals from other countries are reluctant to plan visits to or travel away from the U.S. because they fear the next immigration order that might be coming;
  • don’t presume that colleagues or students will disclose their national origin / identity; given the current political climate, they may fear to do so, even in Canada;
  • remember that some individuals may be affected by the executive order without knowing it. In particular, the ban is not limited to passport holders of the seven countries. In some cases, marriage or parentage may determine who is affected.

Conferences, workshops, etc.

  • since loss of travel opportunities results in less networking, less prestige, less demonstrable engagement with wider groups of scholars, offer to workshop and celebrate the scholarship of affected colleagues in journals, blogs, and courses. Tell the scholars in question that you are doing this (and give the workshop a name so that the scholars can list it on their c.v.s); 
  • invite nationals of the seven affected countries (those who live outside the U.S.) to be speakers at academic events in Canada; 
  • organize conferences and workshops in Canada so that scholars from the seven affected countries (those living outside the U.S.) can attend; 
  • make sure that conferences and workshops have good tech options so that those unable to travel here can Skype in, or otherwise participate “virtually”; 
  • reschedule events until after the 90-day ban is over, at which time more colleagues living in the U.S. will (unless something changes) be able to travel. But remember that there may be future travel bans. Don’t count on the 90-day timeline being reliable; 
  • when choosing conferences for your research teams, make sure that they are in locations the entire team can travel to. (Put differently, if one of your grad students is Iranian, it might not be cool to bring your grad team to a conference in the U.S. because that student will be comparatively disadvantaged.); 
  • if you’re planning alternative conferences, etc. in Canada so that folks don’t have to go to the U.S., remember that lots of U.S. scholars will be excluded by this. Many of them don’t receive funds to attend out-of-state or international conferences. So, you may need to Skype them in, or provide them with stipends so that they can travel here; 
  • remember that the ban will prevent colleagues not only from travelling to/from the U.S., but also from travelling through it. For some colleagues, this may mean no more South American trips, etc.

Administrative supports (including hiring, tenure):

  • extend student application deadlines for prospective students from the affected countries;
  • create post-doc opportunities for nationals of the seven countries—the sooner the better; some prospective post-docs may right now be scrambling to replace planned, but no longer tenable, U.S. post-doc positions;
  • plan university events and issue media releases celebrating cultural, intellectual, scientific contributions of scholars from the seven countries;
  • seek out opportunities to co-author or otherwise collaborate with affected scholars; invite them to make contributions to larger publications;
  • establish and contribute to travel grant funds for nationals of the affected countries;
  • in hiring, remember that nationals of the seven countries currently living in the U.S. will not be able to do fly-in interviews in Canada for fear of not being re-admitted to the U.S. after the interview; make alternative arrangements so that they are not thereby disadvantaged in the competition;
  • in the future, when evaluating tenure and promotion files, graduate rankings, or similar from 2017, remember that nationals of the affected countries may have less research output from the period due to restrictions on their conference travel; take this into consideration fairly; 

Final thoughts

  • when colleagues from the affected countries tell you they are worried, ask how you can help. But resist offering unsolicited advice, and don’t tell them not to worry. This is a difficult time for them, and their concerns are justified; don’t dismiss them.
  • If FAUW can help in any way, let us know. 

FAUW hopes that this advice is helpful beyond the University of Waterloo. Please feel free to adapt, share, and use this post.

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