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Muted response to travel bans from N.H. tech firms, higher education

  • Part of a protest organized Sunday in downtown Keene by Monadnock Progressive Alliance is shown demonstrating against President Donald Trump’s executive action limiting immigration and travel. Courtesy Barbara Keshen

  • Part of a protest organized Sunday in downtown Keene by Monadnock Progressive Alliance is shown demonstrating against President Donald Trump’s executive action limiting immigration and travel. Courtesy Barbara Keshen



Monitor staff
Monday, January 30, 2017

Amid growing national protests and confusion, institutions in New Hampshire were relatively quiet Sunday in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and banning the arrival of all refugees.

Late Sunday afternoon, Dartmouth College issued a statement saying it has told its students and faculty who are from the countries listed in Trump’s executive order not to travel outside the U.S., “even to Canada,” due to confusion over the extent of the action and whether it had been lifted by judicial action Saturday.

The statement signed by Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon and Provost Carolyn Dever said they “fully support” the position of the Association of American Universities, which called for the ban to end “as quickly as possible.”

Also late Sunday afternoon, the University of New Hampshire press office issued this statement:

“The last few days have introduced considerable uncertainty in federal immigration policy due to new executive orders, revised interpretations of previous executive orders and judicial stays. The University of New Hampshire continues to monitor and comply with all federal law. As a flagship research university with global reach, we are committed to supporting the students, staff and faculty members who may be affected by this uncertainty and by new restrictions on immigration. Our focus now is on providing the resources these members of our community need as we assess the situation.”

Many colleges and universities and academic groups around the country decried Trump’s order this weekend, which hit higher education particularly hard because of the global nature of modern research and academics. Two Iranian professors at UMass-Dartmouth returning to the U.S. were detained at Logan Airport on Saturday “despite being lawful permanent residents of the U.S.,” and a resulting lawsuit filed on their behalf by the ACLU led to a judge’s order putting the ban on hold. Many reports circulated online of international students and scholars at American schools being stuck overseas because of the abrupt arrival of the ban, which Trump signed as an executive order on Friday.

Concern was also expressed about the effect of the ban on universities’ attempts to lure international students to undergraduate or graduate programs. “How do you convince a brilliant overseas student to spend 5 to 7 years in this country when the White House is shutting borders at random?” wrote Joseph Howley, who teaches classics at Columbia University, in a Twitter post.

“Other countries have set the goal of surpassing the United States as the global leader in higher education, research, and innovation. Allowing them to replace this country as the prime destination for the most talented students and researchers would cause irreparable damage, and help them to achieve their goal of global leadership,” wrote the Association of American Universities in its statement.

New Hampshire’s high-tech industry – which also has a global reach that made it likely to be affected by Trump’s actions – appeared to be silent Sunday, as executives from the technology sector spoke out against Trump’s actions.

The New Hampshire High-Tech Council declined to comment Sunday. “While this is a significant issue in the tech community, since this action is so recent, we have not had an opportunity to discuss it at the board leadership level and need to do so before making any formal (comment),” wrote NHHTC Executive Director Matt Cookson in response to a Monitor inquiry.

Elsewhere, tech protests included Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s presence at a protest at San Franciso’s airport, where he noted that he had been brought to this country as the child of refugees fleeing religious persecution in the Soviet Union, as well as the decision by a half dozen prominent technology executives to match or exceed donations to the ACLU, which spearheaded a drive to have the order stayed by federal judges on Saturday.

Many public protects broke out in cities and international airports around the country. The largest in New England occurred at Copley Square in Boston, where thousands of people gathered in a protest organized by the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

One visible public protest in New Hampshire on Sunday occurred at Central Square in Keene, where scores of people held signs opposing the move in a gathering organized by Monadnock Progressive Alliance, which put together a similar protest two weeks ago against cuts to the Affordable Care Act. Other protests of various sizes popped up around the state as well.

Both of the state’s Democratic U.S. senators issued statements condemning Trump’s action.

“This executive order is un-American and grossly inhumane,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. “This order also endangers our troops and diplomats. Discriminating based on religion and nationality severely undermines the local alliances and trust established by our troops and diplomats in the field. This order is so ill-considered that it is even barring Iraqi civilians who have provided essential assistance to the U.S. mission.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan, who as governor called for a pause in the resettlement of Syrian refugees following terror attacks in Paris, said Trump’s move “runs counter to the fundamental values that make America the greatest country on earth. It will also make us less safe. We must always be working to strengthen the vetting process for all entryways into the United States, but discriminating against individuals on the basis of their religion will only harm our national security interests.”

Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, issued no statement Sunday on the controversy.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)