University student creates petition urging Schlissel to support refugee students

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 - 8:29pm

LSA junior Haleemah Aqel petitions President Mark Schlissel to support refugee students.

LSA junior Haleemah Aqel petitions President Mark Schlissel to support refugee students. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

 

Over a thousand University of Michigan students and alumni signed a petition calling for University President Mark Schlissel to ensure that the University remains welcoming and accessible for all students, regardless of refugee, undocumented or international student status.

LSA junior Haleemah Aqel, who created the petition, said it was intended to further her Books Not Bombs campaign which advocated for Syrian refugees and students, as well as to prompt the administration to stand up for the human right to education.

“As the campaign leader of Books Not Bombs at UM, I felt that it was extremely necessary to release a petition in order for Schlissel to uphold and defend human right to education for all, whether they are international students, undocumented immigrants or refugees from the seven nations affected by the anti-Muslim ban or not,” Aqel said.

This petition, titled “President Schlissel: Stand With Refugee, International & Undocumented Students At UMich,” is a response to President Donald Trump’s much disputed executive order, signed Jan. 27, which suspended the Syrian Refugee program indefinitely, as well as barred entry to the United States for residents of Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for up to 90 days.

Schlissel was unable to comment Tuesday afternoon in an interview with the Daily as to a specific contingency plan for refugee students. University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen, however, provided an email statement later in the evening containing more general language related to international students, not specifically refugees. A new Immigration Working Group, she noted, would be best able to identify future issues and solutions for all students.

"As the president noted, we are currently focused on potential changes to immigration laws, policies and practices that could affect the status and safety of U-M students and personnel, particularly international students and those who may be undocumented," Broekhuizen wrote.

Citing the order, Aqel wrote all students should be able to pursue a higher education in the United States, as they bring diversity of thought and experiences to academic communities across the country.

“No order or policy should prevent people deserving and capable of obtaining a higher education in the US from coming here,” Aqel wrote. “International students have added billions to the US economy and improve their local communities everyday. Refugee, international and undocumented students also bring diversity of thought and perspective to our classrooms that adds enormous value to our scholarship, academic research and community.”

In the petition, Aqel appealed directly to Schlissel, asking him to use his voice to support refugee, undocumented and international students as well as their access to student visas.

“As our President, please stand with us today and voice your support for the continuation of student visas and access to quality education for all refugee, undocumented and international students,” Aqel wrote.

Schlissel issued a statement on Jan. 28, writing that the University is committed to protecting the rights of all members, and will not release the immigration status of students. He further added that campus police do not ask immigration or citizenship status while working on campus.

“The leadership of the university is committed to protecting the rights and opportunities currently available to all members of our academic community, and to do whatever is possible within the law to continue to identify, recruit, support and retain academic talent, at all levels, from around the world,” Schlissel wrote.

Aqel noted that though Schlissel included international students and undocumented immigrants in his statement, she wanted to ensure the administration is also inclusive of refugee students in their statements.

“I recognize that President Schlissel released a statement on Saturday, expressing his support for international students/undocumented immigrants, but he did not explicitly state his support for refugee students,” Aleq said. “This petition ultimately falls in line with the goals of the Books Not Bombs campaign, which is to advocate for scholarships for Syrian refugees and students nationally, and specifically in my role here at Michigan.”