UNB law profs urge immediate action against Trump's refugee policies

Law professors at the University of New Brunswick have joined their colleagues across the country in calling on the federal government to immediately stop blocking refugee claimants from crossing the U.S. border into Canada and to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement for three months, pending a review.

U.S. 'not safe' for refugees, letter signed by more than 200 law professors across Canada states

Law professors say President Donald Trump's actions and statements 'reflect the very bigotry, xenophobia and nativist fear-mongering that the international refugee regime was designed to counteract.' (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Law professors at the University of New Brunswick have joined their colleagues across the country in calling on the federal government to immediately stop blocking refugee claimants from crossing the U.S. border into Canada and to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement for three months, pending a review.

Under the agreement, refugees must make their claims to refugee status in the first "safe" country they reach and can't make a claim in both the U.S. and Canada.

But the professors contend the United States is "not safe" for refugees, based on executive orders issued by President Donald Trump, including a ban on Syrian refugees and a bar against entry of nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as his call for a ban on entry for all Muslims and his suggestion that he is open to considering the use of torture.

We condemn these actions and statements in the strongest possible terms.- Letter signed by law professors

Trump's actions and statements "reflect the very bigotry, xenophobia and nativist fear-mongering that the international refugee regime was designed to counteract," the professors argue in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen.

"We condemn these actions and statements in the strongest possible terms," the letter signed by more than 200 law professors, including seven from UNB, states.

According to the professors, Canada's immigration legislation indicates that in determining whether a country should be designated "safe" for refugees, consideration must be given to the country's human rights record and whether it complies with the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention against Torture.

They contend Trump's refugee policies are "inconsistent with" the Refugee Convention and the Convention Against Torture, as well as the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, "and many other international human rights instruments."

Trudeau is expected to meet with Trump as early as this week.

Universities Canada 'deeply concerned'

The letter from the law professors comes on the heels of a statement issued Sunday by Universities Canada, expressing "deep concern" about Trump's travel ban, and calling for it to end "as quickly as possible."

The executive order restricting travel into the U.S. "affects research partnerships, international studies, academic conference participation, field visits and in some cases family relationships of our university students, faculty and staff," says the organization, which represents 97 universities.

George MacLean, UNB's vice-president of academics, says the impact of Trump's travel ban will be wide-ranging for students, faculty and staff. (CBC)

George MacLean, the UNB vice-president of academics, describes the statement from Universities Canada as unprecedented.

"It's a non-partisan organization and a statement like this can be seen as entering into the political arena," MacLean said Wednesday.

"But I belive that Universities Canada felt that it was necessary, not for political reasons, but because we have not hypothetical, but real effects on our students our staff and our faculty."

There are 116 students on both UNB campuses enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs whose home country is one of the seven affected by the travel ban.

The potential effects are wide-ranging, said MacLean, whose speciality as a researcher is in the field of foreign policy and international politics.

"I've been racking my brain to try to come up with an example of where one of our close allies — the United States or another country — has imposed a wide-ranging ban such as this one with such a confusing premise. It's extremely difficult to wrap our minds around the implications here."

"What we're trying to do at this stage is to account for all of those and provide the support and resources we can at the outset," such as emergency financial aid for anyone who gets stuck at the border, assistance from international student advisers, and counselling.

'We cherish the opportunity to host students, faculty and staff from around the world, who use their new knowledge and unique talents to positively impact our community."- Eddy Campbell, UNB president

Any UNB group trips to the U.S. are proceeding as scheduled, said MacLean, but based on information from the U.S. consulate, students from the seven countries in question may not be admitted to the U.S., even if they have dual citizenship, a green card or visas.

So UNB is urging those students to "seriously consider whether it's in their best interest to attempt to enter the United States because they may be denied."

Meanwhile, UNB president Eddy Campbell issued a letter to "members of the UNB community, expressing his "full support" of the concerns raised by Universities Canada.

"UNB welcomes the benefits of diversity and has a long history of collaboration with international partners through welcoming international students, international development efforts, and research with an international focus," Campbell wrote.

"We cherish the opportunity to host students, faculty and staff from around the world, who use their new knowledge and unique talents to positively impact our community."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton