A united community stands behind its professors

By Sebastian Moronta Blanco, Staff Writer

President Trump’s immigration ban’s effect has stretched into our local community, as two UMass Dartmouth professors came to learn one Saturday afternoon.

On January 28, just a day after the executive order was signed into law, UMass Dartmouth professors Mazdak Tootkaboni and Arghavan Louhghalam were passing through Logan Airport while returning from  an academic conference in Paris when they were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Customs kept Tootkaboni and Louhghalam in custody for a period of four hours before they were released and arrived safely at home that evening.

Both Professors are legal permanent residents of the United States, and soon after news of their detainment reached UMass Dartmouth, university officials shared the school’s position on the matter.

In a message from the UMass Dartmouth office of Public Affairs sent out on January 29, Interim Chancellor Helm and Provost Karim said they stand by their colleagues.

“Now that our colleagues are safe, we want to be clear that we believe the executive order does nothing to make our country safer and represents a shameful ignorance of and indifference to the values that have traditionally made America a beacon of liberty and hope.”

They continued, “This executive order is, furthermore, shockingly oblivious to the fundamental tenets of intellectual and academic freedom, which are enriched – not endangered – by international collaboration.”

University officials were in contact with both professors throughout the afternoon, and contacted elected officials as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and immigration lawyers.

The professors have since filed a lawsuit like many others across the country against President Trump regarding their detainment.

University officials were not alone in supporting the two professors. Students and faculty across campus voiced their support and condemnation for the executive order.

Mohammad Houraibi, a sophomore student and finance major whose traditionally Muslim family legally immigrated to the United States several years ago was up in arms about the executive order.

“I think the order is pretty ridiculous, and unfair to Muslim Americans and citizens,” said Houraibi. “I’m so happy the judges struck it down, and hope they keep stopping Customs from enforcing it.”

The order has sparked national outrage, and this past Friday, two federal judges in Massachusetts ruled that the order was unenforceable for a period of 7 days, expiring on February 5.

In a statement from the Office of the Chancellor, Chancellor Helm took the opportunity to refresh the UMass Dartmouth community on the school’s policies on discrimination and the integration of immigrant students into the student body.

He reaffirmed the school’s commitment to maintaining a welcoming environment in the pursuit of academic advancement.

Despite the effect of the executive ban, the two professors have remained positive.
In a statement posted by the Office of Public Affairs they reflected, “We are happy and relieved to be home and back to work, doing what we love doing, educating the next generation of civil engineers and research.”

They continued, “We have always felt welcomed in America, a country with a vibrant academic community and a place where the quest for science and innovation has been fueled by a diverse and colorful influx of creative and compassionate minds.”

Both educators hope to have a lasting influence.

“It is our hope that the national dialogue, ignited by our experience and that of many other immigrants who yearn only to pursue the American dream, results in laws and polices grounded in humanity.”

Photo Courtesy: umassd.edu


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