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Plan B

fightpowerI never thought I would have to write a blog entry like this one… Not in this country. But, here I sit. This article is about how to help your student escape from the USA if the Muslim bans become worse.

As I write this, there are still people in limbo about their status to enter the USA. These people have visas. The executive order restricting travel by persons from 7 countries was made on January 28th. That morning, I read the New York Times and asked myself, how does this affect my student who is from one of these countries?

Immediate concerns: My student is supposed to present our work at an international conference in March. BTW, my student won a travel award to present at this conference! My first worry was that my student would be detained and not allowed to get on the airplane. After reviewing the executive order, I realize that *technically* my student should be allowed to travel within the country without barrier. That being said, I also do not trust TSA agents. Here is what we are doing to facilitate the travel:

  • We are all traveling together. We will be getting our tickets together. I will use my priveledge as a white, American citizen, and professor to make sure my student is not harassed at the security and makes it onto the plane. This is crazy! I should not have to F-ing chaperone adult graduate students… but, now I do.
  • My student will not use a passport as an ID. My student has a drivers’ license, which is valid at the airport, and will use that as identification so that the TSA agents will not know the country of origin. It isn’t their business anyway.

Future concerns: Given that my student is from a listed country, and that this might not be the last action, what should we do so that my student can (1) survive and (2) finish the work we are doing? Here is our plan:

  • I contacted a colleague in my field in Canada. I know this lab’s work, which is excellent, and I know they have the equipment needed to complete this work. We will meet at a conference to discuss the student’s work, the student’s progress, and make a plan for how the work would proceed.
  • We will figure out how to get a visa for my student to be an academic visitor at my colleague’s institution. We will get the paperwork ready in advance, and get some vague approval.
  • We will have a housing plan made up, so someone can house my student in an emergency.
  • If something comes down that means my student cannot be in the USA, we will work quickly to get travel arrangements made, get the visas finalized, and get my student to the lab in Canada.
  • Worst case scenario, and we do not have time to make changes (we just saw that this can happen), I will personally drive my student over the border. I am relatively close to the border, and I picked a colleague on my side of the USA in Canada. I will declare my student a refugee of the USA, and get my student to Canada where we will have time to finish the paperwork. In Canada, where they have worked on immigrant reform, it is difficult to be an illegal immigrant, but they have rules that allow reasonable times of stay to help people become legal. Since we will have the backing for two professors (one in the USA and one in Canada), I have more faith in the Canadian government to be able to help and do things in a civilized and rational manner.
  • Once in Canada, my student will continue to work as a visiting scientist. I will use funds from foundations to fund the work, if there is some edict against funding foreigners with federal grants (I know, I am not trying to give them ideas, but they could totally do this to punish and push back against scientist protests, so we need to be aware). If I don’t have funds, my colleague has said we could discuss some way to get my student paid another way (of course this might mean my student working for my colleague and not me…, but that is a more minor concern. As I said, my colleague is excellent!). Remember that survival is # 1, science is # 2, and ego and credit should always be # 3 on the list of priorities.

So, what are you doing? If you have a student who is from one of these countries, I encourage you to have a Plan B ready. We have already seen that we will not have much time to think after the fact. Get your ducks in a row now. Our vulnerable students should not be the fodder in our fight with fascism.

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