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Professors, Students, Advocates from the United States and Yemen Warn of Disastrous Consequences to Trump’s Unprecedented Travel Ban

NEW YORK & SANA’A, January 29, 2017—President Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning entry into the United States for people from seven Muslim-majority countries is discriminatory, and will force families apart, deny refuge to persons escaping war and persecution, end education opportunities for students, and damage critical international research, say advocates at the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, a leading Yemeni think tank.

“This unprecedented move is retraumatizing the most vulnerable people in these societies, people who were looking to America as their refuge from harm,” said Waleed Alhariri, who heads the Sana’a Center’s New York office, and is a Fellow-In-Residence at the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. “It has also created panic amongst those who fear they will now be indefinitely separated from their family members.”

The Trump Administration claims that the ban is intended to prevent terrorists from entering the United States. But in reality, the ban harms many thousands of innocent people in the United States and abroad. Among the many harmful consequences, the ban will prevent students, researchers, and academics from the banned Muslim-majority countries – Yemen, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya – from coming to the United States in pursuit of the educational opportunities the United States offers, and will make it much harder for American students and academics to learn from their colleagues abroad, and to pursue joint learning and research projects.

“The Sana’a Center has joint projects with American research and academic institutions, yet because of the ban, colleagues from Yemen will not be able to join conferences or speak at seminars and policy forums in the United States,” explained Mr. Alhariri. “And, since conflict zones like Yemen are difficult for Americans to access, the primary source of quality information about Yemen has come from local civil society actors, who have often risked their lives to come to America and explain to U.S. policymakers critical developments. They are now barred from doing so.”

Educational exchange and collaboration are significantly threatened by Trump’s ban. Many research institutes and organizations in the United States have long-standing relationships with people and organizations based in those countries the President has now banned.

“President Trump’s de facto wall between students and researchers working in the United States and from these countries impedes the development of our learning and collaborative research,” said Ria Singh Sawhney, a student in the Columbia Human Rights Clinic.

Sawhney explained that her team has been working with the Sana’a Center to research the mental health effects associated with the violent conflict in Yemen. The groups had been organizing an interdisciplinary workshop to be held at Columbia Law School, which would have brought together leading researchers from Yemen, the United States, and other countries to design a new study to investigate and improve mental health in Yemen. Researchers from the Sana’a Center have given lectures to students at Columbia Law School on numerous occasions.

“The ban is dangerous and counterproductive,” said Professor Sarah Knuckey, Director of the Human Rights Clinic. “By cutting us off from our colleagues living and working abroad, the ban significantly undermines the kinds of international research collaborations that are vital to addressing global policy challenges.”

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Media contacts:

  • Waleed Alhariri, Director, Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies New York Office [email protected]
  • Sarah Knuckey, Director, Human Rights Clinic, Columbia Law School [email protected]

The Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic works with civil society around the world to advance respect for international human rights on a range of marginalized, urgent, and complex issues. The Human Rights Clinic is an intensive year long course directed by Sarah Knuckey, the Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein Clinical Associate Professor of Human Rights and the faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, as well as by Senior Clinical Teaching Fellow Benjamin Hoffman. The Clinic brings together human rights work, student education, critical reflection, and scholarly research. Students are trained to be strategic human rights advocates, while pursuing social justice in partnership with civil society and communities, and advancing human rights methodologies and scholarship.

The Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies is an independent think-tank that seeks to foster change through knowledge production with a focus on Yemen and the surrounding region. The Center’s publications and programs, offered in both Arabic and English, cover political, social, economic and security related developments, aiming to impact policy locally, regionally, and internationally.