A letter about the American Spirit

Office of the President

1000 E. University Avenue Dept. 3434 ,

Laramie, Wyoming 82071

 

President Laurie Nichols,

We, the undersigned international students and scholars of the University of Wyoming, are writing to you to express our deepest concerns about the latest executive order of President Trump that has affected citizens of the following seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

First and foremost we would like to express our gratitude for the invaluable opportunity that we have been given to study and work at UW. We may have come to UW as an educational institution at first, but UW is now beyond a university to us; UW is our home. We are grateful for the immense support that we have received from the International Students and Scholars office (ISS) over the past few days. We would like to acknowledge the President Nichols’ message on Monday, January 30, 2017 addressing the issue and expressing support. This is truly a difficult time for us as our dreams and aspirations are now at stake. We hope your support would continue at this point in time, more than before.

Last Friday’s executive order has provoked uncertainty and anxiety among many of us in this university and individuals at other institutions across the nation. The international students and scholars from these seven countries have already gone through the long and complicated visa vetting process to gain entry and study in the United States. Many of us have been living here for years away from our loved ones in the hopes that one day it will all be worth it, and now it seems that all of our hard work, patience, and endurance may have all been for naught.

We came here to add value; in the spirit of what America is. The global hub for ingenuity, innovation, competitiveness, diversity, and freedom. We believe in the fact that America has always been great. Greatness comes from welcoming talents from all across the world. There are countless stories of immigrants that came to the U.S. to start anew and since become scientists, thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs, but most of all, Americans. We feel that this order is an attack upon the pillar of American spirit.

We are sure you have heard and read many stories over the last few days in the news, but we would like to share with you the stories of some of our own students and scholars at the University of Wyoming; so that we may convey how vast and complicated the implications of this executive order has already been.

Arash is a third-year Iranian PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He was supposed to travel to the University of Western Ontario in Canada this upcoming summer to test the wind turbine he has been working on for the past three years. Unfortunately, such a testing facility does not exist in the US. His research is a part of an impactful funding of $4.5 Million to the university; the results of his work can help with increasing the efficiency of wind energy plants across the world. At the moment, he is not sure if he will be able to conduct the required experiments to finish his research. There are many Iranian students working in the mechanical engineering department in the research groups of some of our well-known faculty members such as Professor Jonathan Naughton, Professor Dimitri Mavriplis and Professor Erica Belmont, all of whom bring a vast amount of funding to this institution.

Arsalan earned his PhD in petroleum engineering here at UW, and has been a postdoctoral researcher in PIRI Research Group for nearly three years. This group is one of the most prestigious porous media research centers in the world with tens of millions of dollars in support from the industry and the government of Wyoming. In addition to Arsalan, this group includes the ongoing effort and contributions of 14 Iranians and 1 Sudanese. Arsalan is currently in the middle of renewing his work visa to start working as a lecturer and research associate at the university. His future is drastically affected by the signed presidential order; no work visas are being issued for people from his country-of-origin after Friday. Thus, Arsalan is just one of several people facing problems from this group.

There were also many students who were planning to graduate this semester who are now facing problems. Zeinab is a second-year graduate student of philosophy at UW who had planned on graduating and attending one of the PhD programs she applied to. Now she has been advised to delay her graduation.

Furthermore, while our primary focus has been on the effects of this order on our professional lives, it is also important to recognize the emotional challenges this presents for us as well. One of the students shared his personal and emotional struggles. He told us that he was recently notified that his father is seriously ill. Because of this executive order, he cannot leave the country to see his family in their time of need. He is so worried for their health that it is affecting his studies and quality of life.

There is not enough room here for us to tell the story of every person affected by this situation in the past few days at our university, but we hope that the narrative above paints a clear picture of it all. It seems that many people have been drastically impacted within a matter of days, and we are very concerned about the impacts in the months to come, as well as the uncertainty regarding future policy changes. UW has been an attractive hub for students and scholars from all across the globe. The impact of this order, eventually, can create significant ripples in the economy of this great country and this great state. We are deeply concerned about the implications of this order.

We recognize there has been a lack of clarity with the recent order, and are concerned that the travel ban could potentially be indefinite. However, it is of the utmost importance to receive as much information as possible regarding the

following issues which have not yet been addressed:

  1. Cases in which it is necessary for students to leave the country to conduct research as part of their program of study, and what the expectations are for having to delay such work. 2. Possible limitations imposed on students who would be finishing their studies soon and would need to obtain an OPT status in order to start working after their studies have been completed. 3. Possible issues with extending visas and availability of future support for postdoctoral researchers or faculty members working under H1B and J1 visa. 4. Situations in which students are going to graduate this semester and now cannot change their SEVIS status. 5. Possibility for F1 visa extensions for students who have applied for the National Interest Waiver program in case of denied applications due to the new order.

Madam President, we would like you to take a stance with us; your students, your employees, and your family. To stand by the core academic – and American – values. We would like you to meet with us and hear our stories. To support us by sending a message that clarifies the deep potential consequences of this order. To write a letter to the White House to express your concerns and to condemn this executive order, as many other schools have already done so.

Thank you for your time. We look forward to your response.

Respectfully yours,

 

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