University assessing impact of executive order on immigration

WCU international students show off their nation’s flags before the start of the International Festival on campus last spring.

WCU international students show off their nation’s flags before the start of the International Festival on campus last spring.

In the wake of an executive order issued Friday, Jan. 27, by President Donald Trump temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven nations, officials at Western Carolina University are continuing to assess the impact on its international students, faculty and staff.

The executive order, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals,” bans entry into the U.S. by citizens from the countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for a period of 90 days.

The Office of International Programs and Services has identified two graduate students from Iran who may be affected by the executive order, said Ling Gao LeBeau, director of the office. The Office of the Provost has determined that two current faculty members are from nations listed in the executive order, one from Iran and one from Libya, said Associate Provost Brandon Schwab. In addition, one academic administrator holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Iran.

“This may not be a complete picture because we collect information concerning only faculty members with work visas,” Schwab said. “It is possible that we have other faculty members who hold dual citizenship with the nations on the list. In addition, there may be students who have spouses or other family members affected by the executive order.”

Since the issuance of the executive order, the Office of the Provost, the Office of Human Resources and Payroll, the Office of International Programs and Services and other university offices have been in contact with those members of the campus community who may be affected, Chancellor David O. Belcher said in a message to campus. “This is an unexpected, complex and fluid situation, and we are striving to provide support to those individuals and their families as things continue to evolve,” Belcher said.

“Western Carolina University values highly our international students, faculty and staff, and will abide by federal and state laws with regard to the release of confidential information about any of its students, faculty or staff without a subpoena or court order. The university will look to the University of North Carolina system’s leadership for additional guidance going forward,” he said.

In addition, WCU is joining many colleges and universities across the U.S. in recommending that people from the seven countries named in the executive order not travel outside the U.S. and to consult an immigration attorney prior to international travel, said Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar.

“We are committed to being an inclusive and welcoming campus,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “The UNC system will continue to closely monitor the situation and share developments as they become available. In the meantime, I encourage you to take advantage of all the great things that WCU has to offer, stay engaged in your work and support each other.”