Department of Psychiatry

Statement on US Executive Order on Immigration

University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry

Statement on US Executive Order on Immigration

Feb 17, 2017

The Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto has serious concerns about the academic, mental health, and societal impact of the recent series of executive orders by the United States which restrict border access, and expand the reach of immigration policing and detention. In particular, we focus here on the Executive Order from January 27, 2017, which aims to temporarily ban the entry of immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim majority countries and block the entry of all refugees for 120 days, including an indefinite ban on those from Syria. Although this ban has been blocked judicially for now, the impacts of the ban are still profound. While normally United States policy would not be a focus of comment by our department, we are concerned by this order because of its impact on our academic community and on the mental health of the patients we serve.

In our department and in our network of close collaborators, we are privileged to count many Muslim colleagues, including citizens of the countries listed in the ban. They and their families are an integral part of our department and our communities. By jeopardizing cross-border medical research and educational collaborations that advance the mental health field, academic progress  is undermined. Any arbitrary actions that limit their freedom of movement to and from the United States, or to visit their families and return safely are of great concern.

Alongside the detrimental impact on scientific life, the proposed ban is having repercussions on many of our patients and their families. Refugees and undocumented people leave home for many reasons, including seeking safety from violence. Many have pre-existing experiences of trauma. Following this ban and other executive orders, many are now facing hostile rhetoric and living in fear. As clinicians, we know about the mental health consequences of precarious immigration status. Instability perpetuates and worsens trauma, increasing vulnerability to mental disorders. A sense of safety and belonging, including secure immigration status, is fundamental to psychological health. In a richly diverse city like Toronto, we have a responsibility to ensure the physical and psychological safety of everyone. Our department values human rights and justice. We remind our members that we can positively influence the social environment by speaking out against racism and Islamophobia when we see it. We also have a duty to positively support our colleagues facing discrimination.

With regret we must urge caution and care for students, faculty, and staff from the affected countries in making travel plans and encourage you to utilize the University of Toronto Safety Abroad website.

As noted by the University in its statement: “Students travelling abroad with concerns should call the Safety Abroad Office directly 416-946-3929; in the case of an emergency, reach us at the 24-hour collect emergency line via Campus Police at 416-978-2222. International students on all three U of T campuses who have concerns or questions can reach staff at the Centre for International Experience at 416-978-2564 or email”

Other resources that may be of use include:

1) U of T website:

2) National Council of Canadian Muslims: For any Muslim who has been the victim of discrimination, harassment, or a hate crime this non-profit organization will provide support and advice.

3) Naseeha- Muslim Youth Helpline


4) Nisa – Muslim Women Helpline


5) Muslim Medical Association of Canada- For anyone looking for Muslim mental health professionals.

Our department and its members are ready to support all those affected by these recent developments and to stand in solidarity with our Muslim colleagues, patients, and community members. If you are experiencing mental health difficulties, we urge you to seek support, reach out to your loved ones, colleagues and friends, and access mental health services through your family doctor or local hospital if needed. Above all, a public network of solidarity can foster positive mental health in these difficult times.


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