Baker opposes 'applying religious tests'

MIT points to immediate effect on community

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BOSTON — Consequences of the executive order signed Friday by President Donald Trump tightening U.S. refugee and immigration policy have already hit the campus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and drawn bipartisan backlash.

An email to the MIT campus Saturday afternoon from the school's provost, chancellor and vice president of research said Trump's executive order "is already having an impact on members of our community."

"While we are very troubled by this situation, our first concern is for those of our international students and scholars who are directly affected," Martin Schmidt, Cynthia Barnhart and Maria Zuber wrote. "We are working closely with them to offer every support we can."

The New York Times reported Saturday that refugees and immigrants had been detained and/or turned away at U.S. airports, or prevented from boarding international flights bound for America, including an Iranian scientist who was en route to a lab in Boston.

It is unclear whether anyone has been detained or refused entry at Logan International Airport or any other location in Massachusetts. Local offices for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement referred questions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

DHS did not respond to an inquiry by email and the press office's voicemail said it was too full to accept a new message.

The order signed Friday afternoon by Trump suspended for 120 days entry for all refugees and indefinitely suspended access to America for refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. The order also barred for 90 days citizens from seven largely-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

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"The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans," the executive order. "And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States."

The White House said the executive order would protect the United States "from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism ... "

The Times and others noted that the hijackers who attacked the country in 2001 came from countries that are not affected by Trump's executive order.

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Gov. Charlie Baker, through an aide, said he opposes using religion as a criteria in U.S. refugee policy and said the White House should instead focus specifically on dangerous people from any country.

"Governor Baker opposes applying religious tests to the refugee system and believes that focusing on countries' predominant religions will not make the U.S. any safer as terrorists have demonstrated a determination to strike from all corners of the world," Baker spokesman Brendan Moss said in an email. "Instead, Governor Baker believes the federal government should focus on improving the techniques and systems in place to stop dangerous people from entering the country, regardless of the nation they seek to strike from."

When candidate Trump proposed banning people from predominantly-Muslim countries from entering the United States, in December 2015, Baker said Trump's ban "is basically directly in contrast and in conflict with most of the most important values that people in this country hold most dear, among them the right and the ability to practice your religion peacefully."

In his order, Trump wrote, "Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism."

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North Shore Congressman Seth Moulton lashed out at Trump's unilateral action in a statement, saying he is "ashamed that he is our president."

"His executive orders banning refugees and immigrants from some Muslim majority countries to the United States play right into the hands of our enemies," Moulton, a Marine who fought in Iraq, said in a statement. "ISIS has already used his statements to help recruit new suicide bombers, and you can bet Trump's policies will help inspire attacks against Americans both at home and abroad."

The American Civil Liberties Association of Massachusetts on Saturday encouraged anyone being detained at Logan Airport due to the ban, as well as the families and friends of such individuals, to contact their organization.

"President Trump's executive order to ban Muslims, immigrants and refugees from entry into the United States, including people who have a legal right to be here, is illegal, unconstitutional and fundamentally wrong," Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement. "The ACLU is prepared to go to court to stop the Trump Administration's attack on fundamental rights and liberties. To those targeted by these orders, we are with you."

Though it did not speak directly to Trump's executive order, an email welcoming UMass-Amherst students back from break noted the "many unsettling issues in the air and many fundamental questions" during the early days of the Trump administration.

"As we grapple with these questions, I want to make it clear that at the flagship campus we remain committed to the welfare and success of all members of our community, whether they be student, faculty or staff, and pledge to do everything within our legal and moral authority to protect them, no matter their national origin, race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual identity or immigration status," Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy wrote. "They all have the same rights to pursue their educational and professional goals in a supportive environment that is based on mutual respect and is free of fear, intimidation or violence."

[Michael Norton contributed reporting]


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