File: Moore_Ronesha 10.10.16

Students Ronesha Moore, middle, and Delphine Iragena try crepes at the France exhibit during the international festival at Millikin University in this October 2016 file photo. Millikin was among universities Monday that issued statements to assure international students that all were welcome on its campus. 

DECATUR – Millikin University in Decatur was among Central Illinois colleges insisting that all students from all religious backgrounds are welcome on campus in the wake of presidential attempts to restrict their entry to this country.

“Millikin welcomes students from around the world who embrace our mission and are committed to a shared respect for difference, regardless of religion, race, creed, sexual orientation, sexual identity or national origins,” said Millikin's president, Patrick White.

White said the school currently had no students attending from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen, the countries targeted by executive orders from President Donald Trump who has suspended entry visas for those citizens for 90 days, among other restrictions.

But White said Trump's actions didn't change Millikin's core philosophy: “... We wish to assert that all our students are welcome here,” he added.

“Our international students and scholars bring elements of global engagement to campus and help ensure a diversity of understanding, cultures, ideas and aspirations at Millikin,” White said.

“Millikin is and will always be an institution devoted to the ideal of respect for and openness to all of humanity and welcomes the diversity brought to campus by students from all over the United States and the rest of the world.”

And officials at Illinois State University in Normal said Monday that fewer than a dozen students are from countries included in Trump's executive orders. But campus officials say they are taking the immigration changes seriously.

ISU President Larry Dietz sent an email to students, faculty and staff emphasizing that the university remains “deeply committed to providing a safe, secure and inclusive environment for all students and scholars, including international and undocumented students and scholars.”

ISU spokesman Eric Jome said Monday the university has been tracking the immigration issue for a while.

“With the whole chaotic situation over the weekend, we decided to send the message out,” he said.

The letter outlines the ways the university strives to protect privacy and prevent discrimination, including in the areas of race, color, religion and national origin.

The University of Illinois also issued a letter Monday, stating that because of the entry restrictions cited in Trump's order, "we strongly recommend that students and scholars who might be affected defer travel outside the U.S. until there is fuller assessment" of the order and the outcome of legal challenges. 

The letter states that U of I officials, like ISU authorities, are "monitoring events closely and we are working with other universities, national organizations, legal counsel and government officials to support and protect all of our international faculty, visiting scholars and students."

Luis Canales, director of international studies and programs at ISU, said it is "a little early" to determine the impact that Trump's policies could have on the university's goal of increasing the number of international students it enrolls.

But he noted that U.S. universities face competition from other English-speaking countries, such as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, in recruiting international students.

"Obviously, the perception of the international students of the U.S. may be that it is not very welcoming," Canales said.

He sent an email to international students "trying to reassure them that we are a welcoming community" and also to let them know "we are here to listen to them" and help any way they can.

Dietz's letter states that the ISU Police Department "does not ask about a person’s immigration status unless it is specifically related to a criminal investigation being conducted by the department."

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Staff Writer

Courts and public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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