MACOMB — Western Illinois University is offering support and legal assistance to 15 students impacted by a controversial federal executive order issued by U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday.
Trump’s executive order bars immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — from traveling to the United States for three months, in addition to preventing refugees from entering for 120 days.
According to information from Darcie Shinberger, Western’s director of public relations and assistant vice president of advancement/public services, the 15 impacted Western students include seven from Iraq, five from Sudan, two from Libya, and one from Iran.
“We are suggesting strongly that these students do not leave the United States for any reason until this situation is clarified/resolved,” Shinberger said in a statement on Monday about how the university is supporting impacted students.
“Our administrator who is authorized to issue I-20s (the document needed to apply for a visa) has made her personal contact information available and is willing to take phone calls at any time day or night if a student is detained at the airport, but there is only so much we can do. The best thing for these 15 students is to remain in the United States.”
Western President Jack Thomas, in an open letter released Monday afternoon, said the university will remain committed to its core values amid the executive order and support impacted students.
“At Western, we believe that scholarly activities are not bound by national borders,” Thomas stated. “As president of this University, I want to make clear that students from all backgrounds who meet our admissions standards are welcome to pursue their studies here. As a result of institutional concerns, our commitment to all students, our core values, and our inclusive institutional culture, we are monitoring this sensitive issue in an effort to identify the best possible solutions for our students and prospective students who may be directly affected.”
In addition to the 15 students currently enrolled at Western, two students, including one from Syria and one from Iran, have already been admitted to the university for the fall 2017 semester, according to Shinberger. The university also has three pending applications from impacted students.
If the travel ban is lifted after 90 days, Shinberger said, those students will have to scramble to get a visa issued in time for them to arrive on campus by August.
“We are in contact with these students and will provide them updated information as it becomes available,” Shinberger stated. “We very much want these students to choose Western, but unless they can get a valid visa they will not be able to join us.”
As of Monday afternoon, the university was still working to verify faculty members impacted by the travel restrictions.
Over the weekend, Trump’s travel ban was met with protests that erupted at international airports in the U.S. and abroad. The unexpected nature of the executive order caught many off guard, leading to some confusion in how the order should be implemented.
Several federal judges intervened on Saturday to block some portions of the travel ban and allow those from impacted countries with valid green cards and visas to enter the country.
The controversial travel ban has also sparked federal lawsuits, including one from the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Reach Lainie Steelman via email at lsteelman@McDonoughVoice.com, or follow her on Twitter@LainieSteelman.