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Court order opens door for refugees, Iranian student to arrive in Buffalo

Eleven Syrian refugees whose entry into the United States was banned under a presidential order arrived in Buffalo Wednesday.

A federal judge's ruling last week temporarily blocked the controversial ban, allowing Jewish Family Service of Buffalo & Erie County to move ahead with its efforts to resettle the refugees.

In addition, a University at Buffalo graduate student from Iran who under the travel ban had been unable to return to campus flew into Buffalo Niagara International Airport early Tuesday.

"We're feeling pretty optimistic right now," said Apple Domingo, director of resettlement for Jewish Family Service. "We're anticipating they're all going to be here tonight."

Although the agency had to scramble to find living arrangements for the new refugees, Domingo said, "it was a good problem to have."

The refugees initially were due to arrive Feb. 1 and 2, but President Trump's Jan. 27 executive order put those plans on hold. The order banned travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Syria, due to potential security threats. It prompted protests in cities and on campuses across the country, including in Buffalo and at UB.

A week after the order was issued, a federal judge in Seattle blocked it from being enforced nationwide, and visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Sudan were again allowed into the U.S.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is now considering the Trump administration's appeal of federal Judge James Robart's temporary restraining order.

Robart's order allowed a master's degree student in UB's School of Architecture and Planning who is from Iran to re-enter the U.S. The student had tried two other times to return to UB for his final semester and was denied a boarding pass because of the travel ban.

“We are very pleased that our student was able to return from Iran in time to begin his final semester at UB and stay on track to finish his degree,” said Stephen C. Dunnett, vice provost for international education.

UB officials initially said they had 122 students from five countries named in the travel ban. They later revised that figure to 112 students, 107 of whom are from Iran. Most of the students did not leave the U.S. during the winter break, and university officials were able to connect with all of the students.

UB also has 20 faculty, staff and visiting scholars who were potentially affected by the immigration order. All but one, a post-doctoral researcher from Iran, have resumed their duties at the university. The researcher is awaiting a visa, university officials said.

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