Protesters rally in front of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. President Donald Trump's immigration order sowed more chaos and outrage across the country Sunday, with travelers detained at airports, panicked families searching for relatives and protesters registering opposition to the sweeping measure that was blocked by several federal courts. Protesters rally in front of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. President Donald Trump’s immigration order sowed more chaos and outrage across the country Sunday, with travelers detained at airports, panicked families searching for relatives and protesters registering opposition to the sweeping measure that was blocked by several federal courts.

Narges Bayani, a Ph.D. student at New York University, was returning to New York from Iran on Jan. 28 when she was detained by authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport under President Donald Trump’s new immigration ban.

Bayani was released Sunday afternoon after the New York University school of Law’s Immigration Rights Clinic intervened alongside U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler.

New York University is among the growing number of universities looking to their law schools to help protect and guide fellow students, faculty and staff in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The order led to chaos and protests at airports around the country and sparked concern and confusion at colleges and universities that draw faculty and students from around the globe.

The Institute of International Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes international educational opportunities, estimates that 17,000 students from the seven banned countries were studying in the United States in 2015. The majority of those, Like Bayani, are from Iran.

Harvard Law School; Cornell Law School; and Stanford Law School are also pitching in to assist affected students and university employees.

“As an immigrant to this country, a former green card holder, and now a citizen of the United States, I have a heavy heart this morning as I watch the events unfolding at our nation’s borders and at airports abroad,” wrote NYU president Andrew Hamilton in a message to the university community on Sunday. “The dreams and aspirations of many, including some of our own students’, are at risk of being disrupted before they have begun.”

Just last week, the school unveiled the NYU Immigrant Defense Initiative, which offers free legal representation to students and staff who are at risk of deportation. The program is coordinated by the law school’s Immigration Rights Clinic, with the assistance of the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

“This is a time of increased concern and uncertainty over federal immigration policy, including for many people currently in the United States,” said NYU School of Law Dean Trevor Morrison in an announcement of the new program Jan. 23. “I am very pleased that the law school and WilmerHale were able to undertake this initiative to assist members of the NYU community who may be concerned that they are in jeopardy.”

Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic will participate in a Wednesday town hall to “offer information and perspectives on the present situation and take questions from all interested members of the Harvard community,” according to a Sunday message from Harvard president Drew Faust.

“While questions may at this point be far more apparent than answers, the restrictions are already posing barriers to scholars and students seeking to enter the country and are inhibiting others from pursuing important travel abroad, fearful about their ability to return,” Faust wrote.

Harvard’s immigration clinic has recently taken on a larger role representing members of the university community with the hiring of a staff attorney specifically to counsel undocumented Harvard students.

At Cornell University, more than one-fifth of all students are from outside the United States, according to a message from interim president Hunter Rawlings. The university is “exploring the extent to which law school faculty can offer legal assistance to students and scholars from all Cornell campuses detained while traveling or prevented from entering the country.” Meanwhile, the Ithaca law school has committed to provide legal assistance to all undocumented students on campus.

At Stanford University, the law school is coordinating outside pro bono legal assistance for community members affected by the new executive order. The law school’s Immigrant Rights Clinic will also participate in a Thursday town hall for people from the banned countries and campus Muslims.

Meanwhile, Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic played role in the first successful legal challenge to Trump’s immigration ban. Students in the clinic mobilized over the weekend to join the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups in litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Jan. 28 challenging the detention of two Iraqi men John F. Kennedy Airport. The judge, Ann Donnelly, issued a temporary restraining order blocking the deportation of passengers arriving in New York. The clinic’s clients were released from detention.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com. On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ
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