Rastetter Won’t Say If He Supports Trump’s Muslim Ban

"We will comply with all state and federal laws," the Board of Regents president said in a statement.

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Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter. Photo: IprImages/Flickr

Since President Trump signed his arbitrary and wide-reaching executive order Friday to ban citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — as well as refugees from entering the US, all three of Iowa’s regents universities have issued statements supportive of international students and advising the roughly 200 from the seven countries referred to in the order against traveling abroad. But Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, the man in charge of overseeing the universities and a Trump campaign policy adviser who visited Trump Tower in December, is keeping quiet about his position on the ban, which was specifically tailored to target Muslims but not from any of the countries of origin of the 9/11 plotters, where Trump has business ties.

At Iowa State University, President Steven Leath issued a statement Monday saying three people connected to the university had already been directly impacted by the ban, which Leath was critical of. “While we recognize the need for federal actions to protect our national security, we are concerned this executive order will unnecessarily interfere with members of our campus community,” he said. “As a result, we will continue to work with leading national higher education organizations to advocate for immigration policies that protect national security, but also promote and safeguard the international relationships and people who are core to our success as an institution of higher education and as a nation.”

After the Informer made multiple requests for comment to Rastetter and Board of Regents spokesman Josh Lehman asking if Rastetter supported the ban and what his response was to the news that students at the universities he oversees have been adversely affected, Lehman replied with a statement from Rastetter that offered no opinion on the executive order: “Providing safe and secure campuses is one of the Board’s highest priorities, and we will comply with all state and federal laws. Our universities have provided information and support to those connected with their campuses on these new federal policies.”

Lehman did not respond to a follow up question pressing him on whether Rastetter supports the ban.

ISU spokeswoman Annette Hacker told the Register that all three of the people at ISU affected by the ban — a graduate student, postdoctoral researcher, and visiting scholar — are from Iran and all were prevented from returning to the US. The article did not name any of them but on Monday, 32-year-old Ali Darvish, who received his doctorate at the university and was working as an assistant professor but returned to Iran for his family several months ago, posted an emotional message on Twitter.

“For over seven years, as a graduate student and then a professor, I did my best to teach whatever I have learnt to my students,” he wrote. “I think I did my part to make USA a better country. But today, all of a sudden, I am regarded a threat to the country and my life is up in the air. I am banned to enter to at least resign from my job, sell my car and stuff, pack my belongings, say goodbye to colleagues and some awesome friends I have made through these years and leave. You mentioned your executive order does not affect too many people. My question is, is this really about the quantity of people being affected?

“I spent the best years of my life in a country I used to believe is the land of freedom and opportunities. I have friends and know of people who are even in much worse situations, whose health and families are in extreme danger because of this precipitous order. I really hate to complain and I was really too hesitant to write this and share, but as Ganhdi said once ‘Speak only if it improves upon the silence’ and today I really felt speaking out is the right thing to do.”

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.