President Donald Trump on Friday temporarily banned roughly 218 million people from entering the United States. Trump barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for at least the next 90 days by executive order, which a senior White House official said later on Friday is likely just a first step toward establishing a broader ban.
The countries listed include: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.
Gretchel L. Hathaway, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, shared her thoughts regarding the college’s stance on the ban. She said, “The Executive Order has been signed and although injunctions have been issued by federal judges, we are making preparations to assist those in our community affected by the decisions. I am consulting with administrative offices at Union as well as with colleagues at other institutions in order to assist our students and employees who have personal concerns. President Ainlay’s letter to the community offered a strong and thoughtful statement regarding our longstanding commitment to being an inclusive community. In my role as Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, I will continue to work with students, faculty and administrators to design opportunities for dialogue and educational programs on these challenging issues. I’m hopeful that our community will take advantage of programs that explore social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion – topics that affect Union, our nation and the global community.”
President Stephen C. Ainlay’s letter, mentioned above, was addressed to the campus community and distributed by email to students, faculty and staff last week.
Other liberal arts colleges, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, are taking steps to shield students’ information. When questioned if Union would take similar steps, President Ainlay’s office answered, “We are always very protective of our students’ personal information. That won’t change. We’re having conservations now with legal advisors about what are the best options going forward.”
Trump also stopped the admission of all refugees to the United States for four months. During that time, Trump’s secretary of state will review the application and screening process for refugees to be admitted to the U.S. The process is already highly rigorous and often takes successful refugee applicants at least two years to be admitted into the United States, but Trump has argued the program could still be exploited by terrorists.
Sharing his thoughts, Eshragh Motahar, Professor of Economics and Asian Studies, said, “The Executive Order signed by Donald Trump on Friday, Jan. 27 is inhuman, arbitrary and stupid. It displays a callous disregard for some of the most basic values that all human beings hold dear. It has nothing to do with ‘protecting the homeland.’ If anything, it is likely to make the situation worse. Collective punishment is always abhorrent. But this particular instance of collective punishment is also illogical. It targets citizens of countries who had nothing to do with, for example, 9/11, while giving a pass to citizens of implicated countries. Meanwhile when, for no reason at all, you punish law-abiding people who are making valuable contributions to society (as academics, researchers, hi-tech professionals, students, business people), then you are embarking on a very dangerous and ultimately self-destructive journey, on a slippery slope indeed. So far the reaction of the college community has been heartening. However, I fear that once the issue is off the headlines, it might be forgotten. We need to struggle against Islamophobia and all other forms of bigotry and prejudice. But, for it to have any chance of success this struggle needs to be non-violent, ethical and sustained.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education also reported that faculty members from around the country are calling for a boycott of Trump’s executive order. Trump also halved the number of refugees who could eventually be admitted in 2017 to 50,000 from the 110,000 cap established under former President Barack Obama.
Andrew Feffer, Professor and Co-Director of Film Studies, noted, “I think it is significant that Trump signed the executive order on Holocaust Remembrance Day. As a Jew descended from refugees to the United States who escaped violent religious persecution in Europe, I find it terribly sad and extremely troubling that an American president would sign an order that resembles the kind of religious and ethnic exclusion imposed in the past by Nazi and other similarly dictatorial regimes. That is not the America that I believe in, nor should it be acceptable to any Americans, especially religious and ethnocultural minorities that have in the past experienced persecution of this sort, whether in their home countries or in the United States. This should be true not only of Jewish-Americans like myself, many of us experienced in the brutality of anti-Semitism, but of Italian-Americans whose immigration status was routinely questioned a hundred years ago, or Irish-Americans 75 years before that who escaped British oppression only to meet anti-Catholic nativism on the streets of Philadelphia and New York, or German-Americans ridiculed, beaten and forced to abandon their language and customs during and after WWI.”
Feffer continued, “Trump’s executive order should be considered unconstitutional for singling out a specific religious group, violating the ‘establishment clause’ of the United States Constitution forbidding the creation of a state religion. I doubt Trump and his advisors care about the constitutionality of his act. This is the behavior of a tyrannical regime. And all Americans should be very concerned about what is in store for them in terms not only of the potential for ethnic cleansing, but also for the unrestricted exercise of absolute authority on the part of a single person and his minions.”
He added, “We should regard Trump’s action as the first stage in a process that very well may lead to the ‘Muslim registry’ promised in Trump’s presidential campaign. It is absolutely essential to use every means at our disposal to prevent this from happening. Already organizations are forming across the United States to provide protection to fellow citizens and residents, of whatever immigration status.”
Hugh Jenkins, a professor from the English Department, also shared his opinion. He said, “I’m really glad the administration of our school has spoken out strongly about President Trump’s directive on immigration. That directive is an affront to the ideals of diversity, tolerance and freedom of expression that Union and this country are built upon. But we should all go beyond just condemning President Trump and work to overturn his directive, along with all the other anti-American policies he is seeking to enact.”
Following widespread protests at airports around the country, the federal court for the Eastern District of New York issued an emergency stay halting deportations under Trump’s executive order banning entry to the U.S. from those seven majority-Muslim countries. The court order prevents the government from sending immigrants back to their home countries because it would cause them “irreparable harm.” However, it is unclear if the people stranded will have to remain in detention until a substantive ruling on the constitutionality of the ban is delivered.
Arsalan K. Khan, assistant professor from the Anthropology Department, noted, “It is heartening to see people from across the country and from all backgrounds and walks of life come together to resist this preposterous and callous executive order passed by the Trump administration. While the Trump administration claims that this is a needed security measure, there is no justification for a blanket ban considering that no attacks have been carried out by people from any of these countries and immigrants and refugees are extensively screened before being allowed in the U.S. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has already stated that they are considering expanding the ban to nationals of other countries like Pakistan. This sets a very dangerous precedent and should be resisted by all people who believe that America’s strength is in its diversity.”
Aissata Diallo ’20 shared that as a black Muslim woman living in America, she felt disgusted. “My parents and I did not move here to live a life of fear. Just like all the other families, we immigrated here for a better life. The past weeks have been eye opening for me. We have no idea what will become of us in the future. Be aware of what is happening around you. If you are not affected, a member of your community might be.”
Sally Q. Yates, who also served as deputy attorney general under President Barack Obama, announced that the Justice Department lawyers would not defend Mr. Trump’s order against legal challenges. Labelling it as “betrayal,” Trump fired Yates on Monday night, removing her as the nation’s top law enforcement officer after she refused to defend his executive order. The president replaced Yates with Dana J. Boente, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, saying that he would serve as attorney general until Congress acts to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
The Concordiensis contacted New York State Senator James Tedisco’s office but he was unable to provide a comment on Trump’s order.
Professor Motahar mentoned some things that the students, faculty and administration can do to voice their opinion. They can join or donate to the American Civil Liberties Union. Another forum that they can join is the peace@union list (to join, email firstname.lastname@example.org). Yet another newly created forum is unionaction (to join, email email@example.com).
Professor Motahar also emphasized that in this time of uncertainty, we can all come together and request that the college takes a firmer, more proactive and, above all, more public stance on the issue. He stressed that it is vital that the College does that on a sustained basis and keeps the community informed.