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NIU president, Illinois congressmen respond to Muslim immigration ban

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017 12:14 a.m. CDT
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Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com Northern Illinois University's newest president Douglas Baker speaks to guests at the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation leader recognition reception at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center on Thursday, June 27, 2013.

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University is prepared to support those affected by President Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries deemed to be exporters of terrorism, according to a statement NIU President Doug Baker issued Monday.

On Monday, Baker said that NIU would continue its “core value of embracing diversity” by welcoming people from abroad to study, teach and conduct research at the university.

“As always, our goal is to cultivate a university climate where all cultures are respected, and where no one need worry about his or her status on campus because of nation of origin or a lack of citizenship documentation,” Baker said.

Several Illinois politicians have spoken out on the controversial order as well.

Illinois congressmen who represent parts of DeKalb County, including U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, have said they are against how the ban has affected legal residents.

Resources for those affected by Friday’s executive order are available at the NIU International Student and Faculty Office, Student Affairs and the Campus Cultural Resource Centers. Additionally, the university is advising students from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen avoid international travel.

Baker also addressed a petition for NIU to become a “sanctuary campus,” stating that the university cannot adopt the term because it would not provide any legal protections.

“While we legally cannot declare NIU a ‘sanctuary campus,’ we pledge that we will do everything we possibly can within the limits of the law to continue to support our undocumented students,” Baker said in the statement.

NIU officials plan to create an office designed to support, advise and counsel undocumented students and expand its ally training to include immigrants, according to the statement.

Hultgren, a Republican from Park Ridge whose 14th District includes eastern DeKalb County including Sycamore, said he opposed Trump’s order, which was signed Friday.

Hultgren called the ban “overly broad” and said it had been interpreted inconsistently.

“This has led to unintended consequences, like the barring of legal permanent residents and the rejection of Syrian Christians at the airport, a religious minority that was supposed to be protected by the executive order,” Hultgren said. “Keeping America First means keeping our principles first ... we should have our arms open to those who are fleeing oppression and seeking safety, not turning them away at the door.”

A Crystal Lake-based surgeon, Dr. Amir Heydari, was stopped for questioning Sunday at O’Hare International Airport after returning from Iran after Trump’s executive order.

Heydari, a general and bariatric surgeon for Centegra Health System, has dual citizenship in Iran and the U.S. He first left Iran for the United States on Jan. 20, 1981, and has lived in Crystal Lake since 1995.

Kinzinger, a Republican from Kankakee whose 16th District includes DeKalb, said he is opposed to citizens being detained because of their national origins.

“Such detention is unacceptable and must be remedied immediately,” Kinzinger wrote on Medium.com.

O’Hare was one of several U.S. airports where travelers have been held for questioning since Trump’s order. As a result, thousands of protesters arrived at the airport over the weekend.

• Shaw Media Reporter Nate Linhart contributed to this story.

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