Guest Lecturer Born in Iran Cancels After Immigration Executive Order

McGill professor fears he would be detained and denied entry; University professors will instead speak tomorrow on consequences of the executive order. [updated: new location]

By Pete Grieve, Editor-in-Chief ('18–'19)

A McGill professor of Iranian origin cancelled a graduate student workshop at the University of Chicago scheduled for tomorrow because he fears he will not be allowed into the country.

“My city of birth is Shiraz, and all the evidence suggests I would be detained on arrival in Chicago and refused entry on the basis off my birthplace,” Associate Professor of Political Theory Arash Abizadeh wrote in an e-mail shared to the workshop e-mail list.

He said that he had had to change his flight from Frankfurt to land in Montreal rather than Chicago. “The media is reporting that, as a consequence of the US president’s recent directives, US border official [sic] have, as of today, refused entry to Canadians of Iranian origin,” he wrote.

President Trump issued an executive order on Friday temporarily banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from entering the United States.

Instead of the planned workshop, a Law School Professor and a History Professor will hold a discussion on the executive order and how it is affecting students. The workshop is at 12:00 p.m. in Saieh Hall 021. The listhost e-mail encouraged recipients to invite anyone who is interested to attend.

A member of the political science department wrote in an e-mail to The Maroon that Abizadeh notified them on Saturday.

“I'll say that I'm saddened and disappointed at the horrible circumstances that lead to Arash's decision to cancel his visit, and I understand and support his reasons for doing so. However, I'm glad that we were able to turn his cancellation into a discussion about the EO and its impact on members of our community inside and outside the University.… He was justifiably worried about being detained, questioned, and ultimately turned away at the U.S. border, as he is a Canadian citizen of Iranian origin. He informed us that some at the border had interpreted the order to include Canadians of Iranian origin, and that border agents had already refused entry to individuals fitting that description," Will Levine said.

A University spokesperson said in an e-mail that he did not immediately have additional information.

In a campus-wide e-mail this afternoon, two administrators said that they were not aware of any members of the University of Chicago community from the designated countries who are currently abroad.

Anyone with knowledge of individuals affiliated with the University of Chicago affected by this executive order is encouraged to contact the Maroon.

Among other issues, Abizadeh has written on the implications of a theory of popular sovereignty for border controls in an article titled “Democratic Theory and Border Coercion: No Right to Unilaterally Control Your Own Borders.”

“Against the almost universally accepted view, I argue that democratic theory either rejects the unilateral right to close borders, or would permit such a right only derivatively and only if it has already been successfully and democratically justified to foreigners. This is because the demos of democratic theory is in principle unbounded, and the regime of boundary control must consequently be democratically justified to foreigners as well as to citizens,” Abizadeh wrote in the paper.