To Varying Degrees, CUNY Officials Condemn Trump’s Travel Ban

The Ban Could Affect About 120 Students at the University

By Clifford Michel

CUNY officials condemned President Donald J. Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries in late January.

The travel ban—which was blocked by a federal appeals court on February 10—could’ve affected about 120 students at CUNY as well as some faculty and staff.

CUNY Chancellor, James Milliken, criticized Trump’s executive order, citing CUNY’s long history with immigrants (almost 40% of CUNY undergraduates were born in another country).

“While I understand it is the responsibility of the administration to keep our country safe,” said Milliken in a statement. “I believe that this Executive Order is inconsistent with the values of openness and inclusiveness that have made CUNY—and our country—great.”

Milliken also urged members of the CUNY community to engage civically with elected officials.

“Those of us who disagree with this policy should urge our elected leaders to change it,” the statement said. “In the meantime, we will hold to the values that have been a source of strength at CUNY for 170 years.”

A day after Milliken sent out his statement, CSI President, William Fritz, released a statement that supported Milliken, but stopped short of directly condemning the travel ban.

“I applaud the Chancellor’s statement,” Fritz said in a note to the College community.

President Fritz didn’t send out his own statement on the executive order, but referenced and linked to a statement made in December to CSI’s College Council. The remarks referred to his support of DACA and DAPA students.

“While my remarks focused on undocumented students, they also encompassed a larger theme of commitment to our community,” Fritz wrote. “At the College of Staten Island, we are deeply committed to our students, faculty, and staff, and continue to take pride in our institution as a place where serious conversations about difficult topics happen.”

While still in effect, the travel ban barred one CUNY lecturer from returning home. The  graduate student, Saira Rafiee, 31, was visiting her family in Iran when Trump signed the executive order.

Several advocacy groups, student government associations, unions and elected officials held two separate rallies for Rafiee.

Rafiee, a Brooklyn resident, said she waited for nearly 18 hours with 11 other Iranians before flying back to Tehran.

“I have devoted a major part of my scholarly life to the study of authoritarianism. It is time to call things by their true names; this is Islamophobia, racism, fascism,” said Rafiee, who’s studying at the CUNY Graduate Center and lecturing under an F1 student visa.

Demonstrators at these rallies vowed to fight for her to be able to return to the U.S.

“I join the students and faculty here …for fighting for the simple right of someone who has legal status, who has been thoroughly vetted, who is on a visa, simply to rejoin her fellow students, faculty, staff and resume her studies,” said Barbara Bowen, President of the CUNY Professional Staff Congress.

“It is an outrage.”

Fritz encouraged students to reach out to Stephen Ferst, Executive Director of CSI’s Center for Global Engagement, and Isabel Bucaram, a staff attorney at CUNY Citizenship Now. Ferst can be reached at or (718) 982-2100 and Bucaram at (646) 860-5678.

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