Do not deport Nur Munir

After facilitating the downfall of Indonesian President Suharto, the Harvard student is in York County Prison awaiting deportation.

In a surprising case of immigration policy affecting Harvard, Nur Munir, a candidate for a masterâÄôs degree at the Harvard Divinity School, is now in York County Prison in Pennsylvania awaiting deportation. After facilitating the downfall of Indonesian President Suharto in 1998, Munir feared persecution from SuhartoâÄôs military supporters and fled to America. However, his application for asylum was denied, appealed and finally denied again on March 18, 2009, by the Third Circuit. Regardless of the validity of his asylum claims âÄî Munir was found to have credible subjective but not objective fears of persecution âÄî it is unreasonable that Munir be forced to leave America and family before finishing his studies. Munir has applied for deferred action so that he can finish his degree at Harvard, and this is where the university can play an important role in protecting one of its students from deportation. Harvard has one of the strongest support networks for international students. But the Harvard International Office âÄî supposedly dedicated to helping students like Munir navigate the byzantine bureaucracy of the American immigration system âÄî has shown a deplorable lack of involvement in his case. While the HIO bends over backward to ensure that international students have the appropriate visas to join the ranks of Wall Street financiers, it seems to have left this student at the Divinity School in the cold. MunirâÄôs case ought to be just as compelling as that of an international student who needs to file an I-20 extension with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The HIO should use all of its considerable resources, connections and expertise in immigration law to help Munir. It is ironic that we have a âÄúscholars-at-riskâÄù program and are dedicated to scholarship when we neglect one of our own students who fears persecution. Fellow students have written letters to the immigration service asking for MunirâÄôs release, but an official letter from President Drew G. Faust in conjunction with a concerted effort from the HIO would have a much greater impact for MunirâÄôs case for deferred action. MunirâÄôs immigration officer has discretionary power to delay his deportation, and a strong show of support from Harvard would likely have an impact on his decision. MunirâÄôs case also raises questions about the transparency and efficiency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He was detained shortly after his final appeal was rejected on March 18, 2009, and his classmates and professors were baffled by his disappearance until Professor Baber Johansen, acting director of the Harvard Law School Islamic Legal Studies Program, found out where his student was from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement a few weeks later. It is surprising that this student, clearly not a criminal, is in prison at all; he joins the 32,000 non-citizens (including children) who are in prison as their immigration fate is decided. It is imperative that the university push the ICE to release Munir as soon as possible so he can rejoin his family and that he is allowed to remain in the United States to complete his studies. Harvard students can help by writing letters to the immigration service. However, the greatest support must come from the Harvard administration itself, which has the power to protect one of its students from a possibly dangerous fate if he is deported. This editorial, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Harvard Crimson. Please send comments to [email protected]