Trump blocks student’s return to MIT

MIT undergraduate Niki Mossafer Rahmati ’18 was denied re-entry to the United States because she is an Iranian citizen. This comes after the executive order signed Friday by President Donald J. Trump prevented nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Rahmati, who holds a current multiple-entry student visa, was not permitted to board a connecting flight in Doha, Qatar while traveling back to MIT from visiting her family in Iran.

The ban will hold for 90 days and applies to all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The executive order also indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the country, and suspends entry of all other refugees for 120 days.

News of Rahmati’s trouble returning to the U.S. spread on dorm email lists and on Facebook. Students expressed dismay and urged their classmates to action.

Several groups of students have formed to attend a protest of Trump’s ban on immigration tomorrow afternoon at Copley Square. One of the groups of students, formed by MIT Democrats, will meet in Lobby 7 at noon.

Rahmati, a student in Course 2 and a sister of Sigma Kappa, described her experience being turned away at the Doha airport in a Facebook post. Knowing the executive order could be signed soon, she had switched to an earlier flight.

“It was rumored that the president signed the order once I was on my way to the airport, and it was executed while I was in my first flight to Doha,” she wrote. “When I got to Doha, I was stopped at the gate for my U.S. flight.” Rahmati has since returned home to Tehran.

In an email to the MIT community, Provost Marty A. Schmidt, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88, and Vice President for Research Maria T. Zuber said they were “very troubled by this situation.”

“Our first concern is for those of our international students and scholars who are directly affected. We are working closely with them to offer every support we can,” the email said.

An email from the International Students Office had preempted the ban Friday, explaining that it might cause problems for MIT-bound travellers who have citizenship, nationality, or birth in any of the affected countries.

On Saturday, the ISO sent an update confirming that individuals from those countries were being denied entry to the U.S.

David Elwell, Director of the ISO, said his office is “deeply disturbed” by this ban.

“We care deeply about our entire community and the diversity that embodies MIT, and we will continue to reflect these values,” he said.

Former UA President Matthew J. Davis ’16 wrote a widely shared Facebook post detailing his experience calling the White House and learning that the ban “absolutely does apply” to nationals of these seven countries, “regardless of their visa status.” It applies to all nationals, including valid visa-holders, legal residents, and green-card holders.

He said some — including, incidentally, the White House switchboard operator — incorrectly thought the ban exempted visa-holders.

According to MIT registrar enrollment statistics for graduate and undergraduate students, there are currently 38 MIT students from Iran, five from Syria, one from Iraq, two from Sudan, and one from Somalia.

“We strongly believe that MIT and institutions of higher education must remain open and accessible to scholars from around the world,” Barnhart said in an email to The Tech. “We are committed to removing all barriers to talent.”

Hundreds gathered at Logan Airport Saturday night to protest the ban, The Boston Globe reported. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren were in attendance.

“We have all heard about this order that President Trump has given. It is illegal, it is unconstitutional, and it will be overturned,” Warren proclaimed.

At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, where two Iraqi refugees were being detained, protesters reportedly numbered in the thousands.