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San Diego Scientist Says Trump’s Immigration Order Will Affect His Work, Family

UC San Diego global health professor Wael Al-Delaimy spoke to KPBS on Monday,...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: UC San Diego global health professor Wael Al-Delaimy spoke to KPBS on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 about President Trump's immigration orders.

A San Diego scientist says President Trump's immigration orders will affect his ability to travel for work and research. And he warns the actions could have a chilling effect on science in the United States.

A San Diego scientist says President Trump's immigration orders will affect his ability to travel for work and research.

UC San Diego global health professor Wael Al-Delaimy has a green card and New Zealand citizenship, but he was born in Iraq and trained there as a physician. Iraq is one of the seven Muslim-majority countries named in Trump's 90-day immigration ban.

Al-Delaimy is concerned that if he left the United States, he may not be let back in.

"I'm not going to take these chances if people are using my country of origin or birth as a criteria, which is absolutely unacceptable," he said. "I don't think it really protects the United States."

Video by Katie Schoolov

Al-Delaimy's work on global health issues such as indoor pollution, refugee mental health and tobacco control has taken him to countries including Mozambique, Ecuador and India.

In December, he traveled to Jordan to attend a graduation ceremony for Middle Eastern researchers who completed an NIH-funded research ethics training program he oversees. Al-Delaimy said he won't be taking such trips now.

"I actually had a plan to go to Ecuador for a new project we are pursuing there. But now I'm cancelling," he said.

On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said green card holders who don't pose a threat to public safety will not be barred from entering the country.

But Al-Delaimy said he's not willing to risk travel given the uncertainty around how Trump's orders are being implemented. He said family members, including his father-in-law, also a green-card holder, are currently abroad and it's unclear when they'll be able to return to the United States.

"This can really undermine the free flow of science and knowledge and ideas, which is what the U.S. stands for, and what is attractive about the U.S.," Al-Delaimy said.

University of California President Janet Napolitano, along with UC chancellors, including UC San Diego's Pradeep Khosla, issued a statement on Sunday expressing concern about Trump's actions.

"The UC community, like universities across the country, has long been deeply enriched by students, faculty, and scholars from around the world, including the affected countries, coming to study, teach, and research," the statement reads.

"It is critical that the United States continues to welcome the best students, scholars, scientists, and engineers of all backgrounds and nationalities."

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