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U.Va. to protect students’ immigration statuses

Sullivan, Katsouleas say information will only be shared if required by law

<p>University President Teresa Sullivan (left) and&nbsp;Executive Vice President and Provost Tom Katsouleas (right).</p>

University President Teresa Sullivan (left) and Executive Vice President and Provost Tom Katsouleas (right).

University President Teresa Sullivan and Executive Vice President and Provost Tom Katsouleas told The Cavalier Daily Monday that the University will continue to protect and keep confidential the immigration status of students who may be affected by an anti-immigration executive order President Donald Trump signed Friday.

“The only exception is where the student gives us permission to release their immigration [status],” Sullivan said. “Other than that, we’ll only do it as required by law.”

Approximately 70 University students and roughly 10 faculty members could be affected by the order.

Katsouleas and Sullivan said they are not aware of any students who have been detained at airports.

Trump’s executive order will prevent citizens from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. All refugee admissions have been barred for 120 days, while Syrian refugees have been barred indefinitely.

As a result of the order, protesters have been speaking out and organizing marches across the country — the University included.

Opponents of the order have argued it is an anti-Islamic ban, pointing out that the seven nations mentioned in the order are Muslim-majority countries. Trump, however, has said the policy “is not about religion” and defended the policy as a way to keep terrorists out of the country.

A federal judge in New York blocked part of the president’s order Saturday, preventing some travelers from being deported. Shortly after, judges in Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington state also blocked part of the executive order.

Both Katsouleas and Sullivan expressed concern for those affected by the anti-immigration order and told the University community in an email Sunday they are “taking numerous steps to respond to these developments.”

“One of the things we’ve done is reach out to the students individually so if they’ve got issues, they can talk privately with informed people at the University,” Sullivan said in an interview Monday. “To the extent we can, we’ve gotten in touch with everyone we believe to be affected.”

In addition to emphasizing a “one-on-one connection” with affected students, Sullivan and Katsouleas said the University is taking other measures to ensure the protection of community members.

It was already the University’s policy to not release the immigration statuses of students unless it is required by law, and the University will continue to enforce this policy, Katsouleas said.

The only exception is if a student has granted permission to release their personal information.

Presidents at other colleges, such the University of Michigan, have similarly stated they will not release information unless they are compelled to do so.

Students will not need to be concerned with other University officials, such as police officers, asking about their immigration status.

“My police chief tells me he can’t imagine any reason why a police officer would need to know a student’s immigration status,” Sullivan said. “It’s just not relevant to the laws the police enforce.”

Because the situation is changing, Sullivan and Katsouleas are waiting to take other actions, such as hosting a University-wide forum, which was referenced in their email. The University, however, is actively communicating with both state and federal legislative leaders, as well as Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D).

“It is a fluid situation, and that’s one of the frustrating things about it,” Sullivan said. “I’m not different from any other university president. None of us can figure it out. I think it’s just that somehow this executive order came down without running through all the possible consequences and ramifications so it’s got everyone a little befuddled.”

Sullivan mentioned she would be attending Tuesday night’s Student Council meeting for an open Q&A and will talk more about the executive order if there are any updates.

“I’m proud of the fact that we have students from over 130 countries at U.Va,” Sullivan said. “They add a lot to this community. It would be a very different place if we didn’t have the people from the number of countries who bring all the skill and talent that they bring.”

Katsouleas said that as the son of an immigrant who came to the U.S. at age 19, Trump’s executive order is a very personal issue for him.

“I’m very proud to say he started a successful company that employed over 200 people for many years,” Katsouleas said. “This is exactly the kind of value proposition that immigrant students present for this country.”