Two UMD professors briefly detained Saturday after trip abroad

Q&A: What is a presidential executive order, anyway? (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) – Two UMass Dartmouth professors were detained Saturday while trying to re-enter the United States.

Mazdak Tootkaboni and Arghavan Louhghalam are Civil and Environmental Engineering professors and, according to university officials, were on the way back from a conference in Paris when they were detained.

Both are Iranian nationals, Muslims, and legal permanent residents of the United States with green cards.

According to a lawsuit filed on their behalf by the ACLU, they landed at Logan Airport in Boston at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday and were stopped from leaving the airport by U.S Customs and Border Protection agents and detained for three hours. The agents detained them pursuant to President Trump’s Friday executive order that halts any entry to the U.S. for people from several predominantly Muslim nations, including Iran. The order also stops all refugees worldwide from entering the country for four months, and blocks Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Attorneys argued that “as lawful permanent residents…Petitioners have a constitutional right to return home to the United States after a brief trip abroad, and cannot be deprived of their lawful permanent status without justification and due process protection.”

A federal judge in Boston ruled in their favor, blocking the Trump’s order and ordering that the two professors could not be held, nor could any visa holder, lawful permanent resident, or person with a federally-approved refugee status. Federal judges in several other cities have issued similar rulings.

Tootkaboni and Louhghlam were released later Saturday night and have returned home, a UMass Dartmouth spokesman said Sunday.

“Now that our colleagues are safe, we want to be clear that we believe the executive order does nothing to make our country safer and represents a shameful ignorance of and indifference to the values that have traditionally made America a beacon of liberty and hope,” UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Peyton Helm and Provost Mohammad Karim said in a written statement. “This executive order is, furthermore, shockingly oblivious to the fundamental tenets of intellectual and academic freedom, which are enriched – not endangered – by international collaboration.”