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Santa Fe feeling the effects of Trump’s policies

SANTA FE – Graduate science student Leila Niamir applied to be one of 80 students at Santa Fe Institute’s annual Complex Systems Summer School, but she’s withdrawn due to the Trump administration’s plans to restrict visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“Considering the visa ban, and as an Iranian researcher (though I am living and working in the Netherlands) I did not feel welcomed to the United States,” Niamir wrote in an email to the institute.

Other Santa Fe organizations are also feeling effects from Trump’s immigration and refugee policies. A Mexican anthropologist who is Muslim has decided not to attend the Society for Applied Anthropology’s annual conference scheduled next month in Santa Fe. The popular Santa Fe International Folk Market has a plan for selling items produced by any of its far-flung artists who can’t get into to the U.S. for the July event.

The nonprofit Santa Fe Institute, founded in 1984 by former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists and others, attracts leaders in many scientific disciplines and is noted for its work on complexity science.

Iranian student Kayhan Momeni applied for one of 10 spots available for SFI’s 2017 Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. But in a Feb. 1 message, he wrote, “Due to the U.S. new foreign policies against immigrants that includes Iranian students from entering the country, I was wondering if it would be possible for me to participate in the program online (if my application is accepted).” SFI does not have an online program, said spokeswoman Jenna Marshall.

An Iranian who is a German citizen and professor of artificial intelligence, who has been to the institute many times, was worried about coming in April, but his concerns are now assuaged, said Marshall. “He didn’t want to get caught in an airport in another country away from his family,” she said.

“As a community, it really saddens us because we thrive on a diversity of intellects and perspectives,” Marshall said. “SFI is a visiting institution – we bring together some of the brightest minds in science in Santa Fe and we ask people to collaborate on these big questions.” Previously, SFI president David Krakauer criticized Trump’s original travel ban, now on hold because of court rulings, saying it’s “a dangerous and simplistic step that ignores the complexity of our networked world.”

Nancy Owen Lewis, research associate at Santa Fe’s School for Advanced Research and program chair for the Society for Applied Anthropology conference, said a frequent attendee who is Muslim, Mexican scholar Salomon Nahmad, will not come this year.

Lewis said Nahmad “was so distressed with Trump’s policies and attitudes towards immigrants,” he didn’t want to risk it. “I said I understand what you are saying but, if you came to Santa Fe, we would welcome you with open arms,” she said.

About 150 artists from 60 countries sell at the annual International Folk Art Market.

“We work closely with the State Department and visa experts” and “have asked artists to start early with paper work,” Jeff Snell, CEO of the International Folk Art Alliance, said in a statement. “If an artist doesn’t gain entry, we have volunteers in place to sell their work at the Market so they don’t lose the income, which is so important.”