Saturday, December 4, 2021

For MSU community, Trump's immigration ban hits home

East Lansing resident Bruce Barker leads a chant on Jan. 31, 2017 at The Rock. The Michigan State Muslim Students' Association hosted a "No Ban, No Wall: Spartans for Sanctuary and Solidarity" as a response to President Trump's executive order on immigrants and refugees.
East Lansing resident Bruce Barker leads a chant on Jan. 31, 2017 at The Rock. The Michigan State Muslim Students' Association hosted a "No Ban, No Wall: Spartans for Sanctuary and Solidarity" as a response to President Trump's executive order on immigrants and refugees. —

Aiyash’s parents are both immigrants from Yemen who came to the United States around the late 1970s and early 80s. While his immediate family is located in the United States, Aiyash still has extended family outside of the country.

"It was extremely personal for me to hear that his kids — my cousins — and his wife have no opportunity to come here now for the next three months and they’re at risk for death now."

To escape the current conflict, Aiyash’s family applied for visas. The process had almost been completed before the order was signed.

But two Sundays ago, Aiyash’s uncle was killed in a bombing incident from the conflict.

“It was extremely personal for me to hear that his kids — my cousins — and his wife have no opportunity to come here now for the next three months and they’re at risk for death now,” he said.

The narrative is not uncommon. For MSU students and their families, the executive order that was signed doesn’t mean more security, it means separation from family and friends and uncertainty about the future.

Since the ban

Aiyash, who is president of the Muslim Students’ Association, helped organize the No Ban, No Wall: Spartans for Sanctuary and Solidarity Rally days after the order was signed. Hundreds of people gathered for the rally Tuesday night at The Rock on Farm Lane.

“As soon as we heard about the executive order ... we wanted to try to relay the message in a way that we could make people hear about it, hear stories and put faces to the actual stories and then (address) what can they do to actually mobilize,” Aiyash said. “That was pretty much the goal. It was to give people calls to action what they can actually do.”

The executive order on Muslim immigrants and refugees, which ends visa issuing to migrants or visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—all predominantly Muslim countries—suspends the U.S. refugee resettlement program for at least 120 days and bars refugees from the United States.

In the aftermath of the order, MSU spokesperson Jason Cody said MSU would not be releasing the immigration status of its students, something he said was just the status quo for the university.


Later President Lou Anna K. Simon released a statement saying, in part, that “we must protect our borders, but we also must ensure we do not stem the flow of people of goodwill who come and work to make this nation better. Our students and scholars come from around the world to become Spartans, and then return to the world to make it better. We must not allow fear to change the nature of who we are.”

Vice President for Student Affairs and Services Denise Maybank was among those attending the rally. She said she attended to show support for students who feel they’re not welcome or not wanted.

“Michigan State University is built on values that say, ‘We’ve invited you to be here’ and we want to make sure that they know that they belong and that they are part of Michigan State University,” Maybank said. “I just have to be here to be visible and let them know that.”

Student reaction

Electrical engineering sophomore Yacer Mirza and chemical engineering sophomore Menar Muflihi were also at the Rock. Mirza had the Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders, the country his parents are from.

“My parents are immigrants to this country from Iraq, a country banned on this list, one of the seven countries, so that’s why I came out, to show my support,” Mirza said. “First, I thought, you know, this is inhumane, history is repeating itself. ... I just see it going down a bad road.”

The Sunday after the executive order was signed into action, the International Students Association, ISA, held a meeting in which members discussed how they want to move forward.

In attendance at the meeting was ASMSU President Lorenzo Santavicca. ISA Vice President Chris Symons offered the floor to Santavicca to address the students of ISA.

Santavicca spoke about his belief that there is no partisanship in opposing the order.

“This is about Spartan dignity, that’s how I see it,” Santavicca said.

Adding onto that idea, Santavicca said he doesn’t see any issue in supporting the international students who make up the student body.

“It’s a human to human issue of Spartans helping Spartans and Spartan dignity, and I think that’s really what leadership is about here on campus,” Santavicca said.

"We have no idea what the future’s going to hold for us, what other surprises (Trump is) going to spring upon us. This is really worrisome for us."

The ASMSU president also encouraged the students of the ISA to work with Stephen Brown, the ISA Representative to ASMSU, to create something to bring to ASMSU’s general assembly.

In terms of what is currently being done, Santavicca said he is in discussions with Council of Graduate Students, or COGS, and Residence Halls Association, RHA, about what the next steps should be for the student organizations.

Additionally, Santavicca said, “It’s my intention as president that I will hopefully sign on to a statement of solidarity for our international students here very soon with some other counterparts on campus.”

Santavicca said he looks to take into account a lot of what he heard in the ISA meeting when it comes to future action regarding the issue.

Other student groups who have a stance on the executive order are MSU College Democrats and College Republicans.

On Monday, College Democrats released a statement in response to President Trump’s executive order.

In the press release, College Democrats said, “The MSU College Democrats abhor the actions that are being taken by this new administration, not merely because it is in the hands of an opposite political party, but because the man at the helm of this government is the most temperamentally unfit person to assume the Office of the President.”

The statement went on to expand on the ways the organization feels the president has done a less than satisfactory job as commander-in-chief.

“This ban is not who we are. We are greater than this, and we must continue to stand together, reject these actions, and work towards restoring faith and justice in our country and each other,” the statement reads.

In a separate statement by College Democrats President Daniel Eggerding, he said the American people have stood idly by for too long.

“It’s not the time to say, ‘if I was alive then I would have...’ No! The time is right now! You are alive now. You are here now. There are injustices now. Either stand up and speak out against them or watch as we all fail together,” Eggerding said in the written statement.

On the other side of the discussion, MSU College Republicans made a statement regarding the executive order on their Facebook page on Monday.

In the post, College Republicans stated, “The Michigan State University College Republicans stands with President Trump’s decision to invoke Executive Order ‘Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States’ concerning extreme vetting.”

The group added that they believe the order is a great first step toward further securing the safety of the United States.

The statement went on to explain the executive order was based off of a list of “countries of concern” that former President Barack Obama established in 2015.

"It’s a human to human issue of Spartans helping Spartans and Spartan dignity, and I think that’s really what leadership is about here on campus."

Adding onto this, the post said, “This is not a Muslim ban. This is a temporary order that applies to all citizens of Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Sudan regardless of religion. MSUCR is confident that this order will help protect our nation.”

A community close to home

Although Arabic senior Katy Hollobaugh and her fiancé Omar Elsherif are concerned about their future and whether their friends and family will be able to make it to their wedding this summer, they have hope for the time ahead.

“Hopes are one thing and reality is definitely another,” Elsherif said. “I hope that we reach a point where everyone is valued for, you know, being human, not categorized as to who you are or where you’re from or who you’re with or what you believe in. So, in terms of hope, it’s where we reach the point where it’s equal between everyone.”

Finding hope is becoming a more familiar goal. The Islamic Society of Greater Lansing is an organization which provides hope for many. Recently, the center has received a lot of support from the community.

“(We) picked a really welcoming city,” outreach coordinator for the Islamic Center Thasin Sardar said. “We are very thankful for the community as a whole for standing up for us.”

While the people in the Lansing area might be welcoming there are still many causes for concern.

“Mr. Trump has been stroking fury in the people,” Sardar said. “His actions basically dehumanize Muslims around the country and around the world.”

The issue is that nonviolent people can be incited to violence if there is enough stigmatization, Sardar said.

“It’s kind of associating anybody who follows the religion of Islam with terrorism,” Sardar said. “This is needlessly stroking fear in the people, and we’ve all seen what’s happened in Quebec.”

The Islamic Center has issued statements to advise people who are planning to travel on ways to receive help. If the Islamic Center cannot help them, the center will find a group who is able to help, Sardar said.

“We have no idea what the future’s going to hold for us, what other surprises (Trump is) going to spring upon us,” Sardar said. “This is really worrisome for us.”

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