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PSC Member Denied Entry to U.S.

Jan 30, 2017

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Barbara Bowen reported on Saturday afternoon, February 4, that “Saira Rafiee, the PSC member and CUNY doctoral student who was denied entry into the U.S., landed this afternoon in Boston and is on her way back to CUNY and to us!”

PSC member Saira Rafiee granted re-entry to U.S.

Message from President Bowen–Sat., Feb. 4
Saira Rafiee, the PSC member and CUNY doctoral student who was denied entry into the U.S. as a result of President Trump’s atrocious executive order banning legal immigrants from seven countries, has been granted re-entry to the United States. Ms. Rafiee landed a few hours ago in Boston and is on her way back to CUNY and to us.

CUNY student activists, lawyers from CUNY’s Citizenship Now! program, family members and others were at Logan Airport to greet her. That Saira was able to return is thanks to a huge collective effort-together with her own political courage and vision. Even while the outcome of her own case was uncertain, Saira insisted that she be seen as one among many; she called on us to elevate the cases of people without unions and with less access to public voice.

Union support matters. Hundreds of PSC members responded to the union’s call for messages urging action on Saira’s case, helping to focus public attention on her case. (Click here for a sample of media coverage on PSC and student actions last week.) PSC officers sought advice from the extraordinary immigration lawyers who work at CUNY, and enlisted the support of Senator Schumer, the American Federation of Teachers, Mayor de Blasio, and several other Congressional and local representatives. All deserve our thanks.

Meanwhile CUNY student government leaders and other student activists organized a rally and press conference with the Brooklyn Borough President on Monday. The PSC Grad Center chapter acted immediately last weekend and then held a rally and march on Wednesday. In addition, the Grad Center administration worked hard to bring Saira home, coordinating closely Citizenship Now!, whose lawyers-among them, PSC members-brilliantly handled Saira’s case. Collective action worked.

The executive order has been temporarily suspended, following the decision by Judge Robart of Washington last night. But the fight continues. The PSC will resist the Trump agenda as it attacks students, unions, workers and the principles on which universities are founded. Thought has no borders.

Thank you all for your support. We are lucky to have Saira Rafiee in the union and we are happy to have her home.

On Sunday, January 29, the PSC sent members a message about Saira Rafiee (see below), a union member and doctoral student at the CUNY Graduate Center who was then being denied reentry into the United States, despite having a current visa, due to Trump’s executive order banning the migration of citizens from several Muslim-majority countries. On Monday, January 30, President Bowen joined Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, CUNY student government, CUNY DREAMers, and members of the NY Immigration Coalition at a news conference and rally in Brooklyn to speak out in concern for Raifee and to condemn Islamophobia and racism. Rafiee herself urged us to focus on all those affected by the executive order, not just on her case.

A message from President Bowen–Sun., Jan 29

The PSC learned Saturday that a union member and CUNY doctoral student, Saira Rafiee, was denied entry into the U.S. as a result of the executive order signed by Donald Trump barring entry for legal, documented immigrants from seven countries. Saira was traveling back from Iran, where she is a citizen, to resume her work and studies at the CUNY Grad Center. She was in transit by way of Abu Dhabi when she was forbidden to board a plane to New York and was detained for almost 18 hours. She has now been able to fly back to Tehran, but is still barred from reentry to the U.S.

Saira wrote in a statement Sunday morning: “I have no clue whether I would ever be able to go back to the school I like so much, or to see my dear friends there. But my story isn’t as painful and terrifying as many other stories I have heard these days.”

Because of the quick work of the PSC chapter chair at the Grad Center and several Grad Center faculty and students who immediately notified the union, the PSC officers and staff were able to work with the Mayor’s office, our national union, and immigration rights attorneys in support of Saira’s case.

I urge you to call on our Congressional representatives to bring Saira Rafiee back to New York and to CUNY. As academic unionists in an institution where immigrants make up 40 percent of the student body and in a city built and sustained by immigrant labor, we have a special responsibility to demand an end to Trump’s dangerous ban. Click here to find the contact information of your representatives, and email Senators Schumer and Gillibrand asking for their intervention for Saira and all those imperiled by the executive order. (On weekdays, use 202-225-3121 to reach Congress by phone.)

Saira’s own statement reminds us of what is at stake: “The sufferings of all of us [who have been detained] are just one side of this horrendous order. The other side is the struggle against racism and fascism, against assaults on freedom and human dignity . . . As a student of sociology and political science, I have devoted a major part of my scholarly life to the study of authoritarianism. It is time to call things by their true names; this is Islamophobia, racism, fascism. We, the 99% of the world, need to stand united in resisting the authoritarian forces all over the world.”

There may be other CUNY students, faculty and staff caught in this executive order. Please notify the PSC if you are aware of union members in need; you may also want to contact CUNY CLEAR, an immigrants’ rights project at the Law School.

And keep standing up and speaking out for our members, our students and our city. Every collective action we take builds the union’s strength to fight for all of us.

In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC

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