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This College Responded To Trump's Travel Ban By Offering A Refugee Scholarship

Wheaton College said its intention was to counter the "divisive message" of Trump's refugee ban.

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Wheaton College — a liberal arts college in Massachusetts —responded to President Trump's travel ban by offering a full scholarship to a refugee fleeing conflict, with special preference to applicants from the seven countries listed in the ban.

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In a statement on Jan. 31, president, Dennis M. Hanno, announced that the college would offer a full scholarship to a student refugee from a war-torn country with special preference to applicants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Hanno said that his intention was to counter the "divisive message" of Trump's executive order on immigration which temporarily suspended the country's refugee program and banned travelers from the seven Muslim-majority countries.

The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security on Saturday suspended enforcement of the ban after a federal judge temporarily blocked its visa and refugee provisions on Friday.

The college said that it would give preference to students seeking entrance to the US if the recent ban was lifted, or would seek to identify qualified refugee students from these countries or other war-torn nations, currently living in the US.

It will also waive its $65 application fee for the candidates.

"This new policy implies that international students are neither needed nor wanted," Hanno said. "This is false, and we must counter that divisive message."

John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Hanno said that the immigration order "endangers the broadly diverse learning environment that is essential to our mission."

Approximately 18% of the1,650 students enrolled at Wheaton are international students, Michael Graca, the college's spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Monday.

"We don't see this as a political statement," Graca said. "We thought it was important, at this moment in time, to send a strong message to the world and to students considering Wheaton, that they are welcomed here as members of the community."

Hanno also pledged to support current students who might be affected by the ban and would be unable to return to their homes during school breaks.

"We urge our country’s leaders to end swiftly the ban on welcoming refugees and foreign nationals to sustain the productive exchange of ideas and viewpoints that make our institutions of higher learning such fertile ground for expanding knowledge and hope," Hanno said.

Wheaton urged other colleges and universities to join them in "making a clear statement about the importance of diversity and openness on our campuses."

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"We are establishing the Wheaton Refugee Scholarship as a way of adding our voice to the chorus of people across the country who are calling for the immigration ban to be lifted,” Hanno said. “I encourage other colleges and universities to join us."

Graca said that while other universities had not yet expressed interest in joining Wheaton's statement, he noted that many already offered similar scholarships.

Hanno said that this was a way for the higher education community to let people from the countries know that "as Americans, we are interested in helping others."

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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