Elon experts share concerns about immigration decrees

In 'Understanding the Recent Executive Order on Immigration,' a panel discussion hosted Feb. 6 at Elon Law, three university faculty members outlined the potential effects of President Donald Trump's approach to immigration in the name of national security.

What might be the longterm impact of President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, assuming it isn’t struck down by federal courts? According to three Elon University experts who spoke Monday night at Elon Law, there won’t be an “impact.” There are impacts – plural. Potentially many of them.

  • A sharp drop in the number of international students who choose to study in the United States, which will benefit the economies of other nations where those students opt to learn instead.
  • Families permanently split as refugees and asylum seekers no longer find themselves welcomed on American soil.
  • A sharp drop in American “soft power” and global instability as hostile foreign leaders and radical extremists point to the United States and say to followers, “See? We told you the U.S. doesn’t want us.”
  • Increased threats to military personnel and intelligence agents overseas who find it harder to work with local populations weary of U.S. intentions.

Yet the new president has wide latitude to affect immigration policy, the experts said, so opponents of the ban shouldn’t assume the courts will rule against Trump’s executive orders in the weeks ahead.

“The argument the administration is making is that this is a national security issue,” said Professor Laura Roselle, a scholar of international political communications in the Department of Political Science and Policy Studies. “They’re arguing that the orders make the nation safer.”

Trump’s executive order bans entry into the United States for three months any refugee seeking resettlement. It prohibits those from seven predominantly Muslim nations, regardless of immigration status, from entering the nation. It also prioritizes Christian refugees over those of other faiths.

The order has been temporarily halted as legal challenges make their way through the courts.

Roselle was joined by Woody Pelton, dean of Global Education for Elon University, and Gary Liao, a clinical practitioner in residence in Elon Law’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, for an hourlong program at Elon Law. Moderated by Assistant Professor Jason Husser, the university’s Faculty Fellow for Civic Engagement, the Feb. 6 discussion was live streamed to an audience on main campus using WebEx technology.

The panel was sponsored by the Elon University Council on Civic Engagement & the Elon Law Inclusive Community Workgroup.

Concerns from the three panelists reflected their expertise. Pelton said he fears a “chilling effect” of American students studying abroad and international students visiting the United States, thereby decreasing intercultural understanding. Liao expressed concern on the amount of power now afforded the executive branch in determining policy.

Whether courts strike down the bans on constitutional grounds remains to be seen, Liao added. Challenges to the executive order issued in late January 2017 cite due process, equal protection, and establishment clause protections that should have prevented the order from ever being issued.

What happens next, the experts said, remains to be seen.