Summary of the immigration town hall meeting at Breazzano

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On Feb. 13, 2017, students and faculty gathered at Breazzano house to discuss concerns and plans of action to combat President Trump’s presidency. The town hall style meeting commenced with six speakers representing diverse elements of the Union community.

First, Gretchel Hathaway, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion assured everyone that the school was not taking lists of names of people for fear that government agencies may end up seeking them.

In addition to President Ainlay’s report, a risk assessment committee is regularly meeting to ensure the school is taking proper measures. Next, Rachel representing the Muslim Students Association is originally from Pakistan and came to the United States at the age of two.

While Pakistan is not on the travel ban, she stated that many people living in countries on the list are seeking a better life for themselves and to pursue happiness. Then she quoted a positive passage from the Qur’an. After, Jeff Corbin, Associate Professor of Biology, expressed his outrage at the attacks on the scientific community and advocated for people to walk this Earth Day in Albany or Washington, D.C.

Fourth, student Rory Bennett of Campus Action discussed creating a petition that would act as a symbol to reject Trump’s rhetoric. The school is hesitant about recognizing itself as a Sanctuary Campus because the federal government has threatened sanctuary cities of stripping federal funding and aid.

It is unclear at this point how much money the school receives in federal funding but a vast number of students rely on federal aid to pay for tuition. The petition would also expand withholding information within legal means to include sexual orientation, gender identity and religious denomination.

Next, Professor Vicki Martinez of Modern Languages explained that there would be longer waiting periods for Visas (which already take few years to process). Additionally, successful immigration from Mexico or other countries to the United States is dependent on class.

In order to receive a Visa one needs to have family here, apply for refugee status or have the employer pay 10 thousand dollars to apply. Lastly, Professor Kenneth Aslaskson read the case Washington v. Trump making its way up the courts. Washington and Minnesota are arguing that the law discriminates against its State’s Universities based on national origin and religion and gives preference to Christianity over Islam.

Additionally, there is little evidence to show that immigration has led to terrorism and more harm to individuals. Lastly, the executive order claims that the courts don’t have authority to review this matter. Trump’s insistence of his supreme authority over the courts has spurred courts to take this case. After the speakers the discussion flowed out into the crowd of approximately 30 people.

Many interesting ideas and strategies were discussed for the next half-hour. For instance, Union college has the power to join other colleges with shared values to file a lawsuit if need be. Accessing the courts to defend individuals’ rights and persecution for their backgrounds seems to be one of the most effective methods.

One strategy was to post immigrant rights hotlines and support services across Union’s campus. One perspective was to broaden activists message to others who may not understand the effects of these policies or supported Trump in the election. For instance, some Republicans have been critical of Trump’s immigration ban in Syria where there is a Christian minority.

Other potential strategies included trying to spread the message into trustee meetings, provide summer internships for foreign students who can’t return to school if they go home and altering language of programs such as for recent Union graduates in order to study in the United States for longer. The success of the meeting derived from the way members of the Union community support and care for each other in these trying times.

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