College/University Students take action against Trump’s Immigration Ban
Colleges and Universities nationwide are experiencing an unexpected spike in student political awareness and activism as a result of Donald Trump’s recent executive order. On Friday, January 27th, 2017, President Donald Trump ordered a ban indefinitely suspending Syrian refugees, barring nearly all travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Sudan — for 90 days, and blocking refugees for 120 days. Many students have taken active roles in protesting and speaking out against the ban.
Among these students are Rutgers University Freshmen Stefanie Traeger and Zahra Lokhandwala. While Zahra is the only one of the two who identifies as part of the American-Muslim community, both girls had a lot to say about the ban.
Stefanie confesses that having a Muslim roommate has definitely influenced her feelings towards Donald Trump’s new policy. Like many other students nationwide, Stefanie had little to no exposure to the Muslim community before she arrived at University: “I can’t tell you how much Zahra has changed my views in the past four months” and reluctantly admits that she probably would have gone along with the views of her parents and conservative boyfriend if she had not met Zahra. After forming such a close bond with her Muslim roommate, Stefanie discloses that she feels “so sad and so mad” as well as frightened of what Donald Trump may do to Muslims in the near future. Zahra agrees that “there are so many people who believe in this that were hiding in the shadows”. When asked to pick out the worst part of the situation, Zahra declares that “all of it is the worst part”.
To share these views with the world, Stefanie and Zahra took it to the streets on January 31st for a protest where they held up signs saying “I’m her Muslim roommate” and “I don’t want a new roommate”. While they admitted to seeing a few Trump supporters parading around, both girls confirm that the protest was incredibly moving and inspiring. Zahra says that it was reassuring to see togetherness, to see so many people standing for the same cause. For Stefanie, the experience was even more eye-opening. She describes it as stepping into a new culture. She says, “It was really cool, I got to see Zahra pray.” The roommates spent the whole day marching around campus, repeating uplifting statements such as “no ban, no wall”, and getting to know people around them who shared the same views.
The protest was organized and led by students at the University who felt they had something to say about the current political climate. This is happening at other colleges all around the world, my own included. Pace University is no stranger to protests as it in located in a very liberal area of Manhattan. Still, my art professor admits to never having seen so many students “come together and exercise their rights to oppose political decisions through freedom of speech” and much more. Fellow Student Sarah Gibney confesses that although she was heartbroken by the results of the recent election, she also recognizes that it was a “catalyst for students to get involved in politics and get educated”. Additionally, eight of ten students that were asked about their protest experience confirmed that they attended their first ever protest to speak out against the recent immigration ban. Performing arts students take a more creative approach, writing skits and monologues depicting the wrongness and severity of Donald Trump’s policy.
Like many other college kids they feel that now is the time to speak up and get involved because being a student enables more “convenience” and “opportunity” to be active without the pressures of a family to raise or a job to maintain. They are not alone in seizing this opportunity to speak out against the ban as members of the American student body. College is a melting pot where students are exposed to various cultures and identities that they never understood before, especially in Manhattan. This inspires students to think outside the box and consider what life can be like for people that are different than they are. As a result, students are becoming particularly active in their political environments, starting with opposition to Trump’s Immigration Ban.