NIU International Community Concerned About Effects of Federal Immigration Order

Jan 31, 2017

Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The President’s recent executive order put in place a 90-day ban on entry visas for immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen).  And it’s worrying the international community at NIU.

The concern is particularly strong among those present on a student visa.  Stephanie Brown, Associate Director of the International Student and Faculty Office, says only a small number of NIU's roughly 1,100 international students are affected directly. 

“We have 20 currently enrolled students, but they have with them about 7 dependents, so spouses and children along with them," she said.  "We have three former students who are currently out working on their optional practical training, which is a part of their student visa.”

She says Customs and Border Protection is primarily concerned about the visas of new arrivals, rather than those already in the country. This means currently enrolled students meet legal requirements for immigration purposes, and that status is separate from any previous entry visas on their passport. 

However,  these numbers don’t take into account naturalized citizens or first-generation U.S. citizens with foreign family members. Brown says the executive order could affect them in a different way. 

“Their family may not be able to come visit them and, as we’ve seen with Iran, the retaliatory, 'Americans are not allowed to travel there.'”  So there still could be a family separation.” 

Because of these concerns, the International Student and Faculty Office is strongly advising students and scholars from the affected countries not to travel outside the United States.

The university says it's committed to protecting NIU students, as well as their records.  Brown also says her office will continue to support the campus’s international community. 

"We continue to make sure they know that they are valued members of the NIU community and as an office, even as international affairs, we obviously promote all this international exchange and that’s not going to change," she said.