By: Hannah Paige Michels ~Head Photo Editor~
President Donald Trump signed an executive order regarding immigration Friday afternoon that has both provoked a wide range of reactions and directly affected the Xavier community.
The order calls for a 90-day suspension on anyone from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. It also indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States in addition to barring all other refugees for 120 days. The ban allows for some exceptions for diplomats and government officials, but other green card holders must apply for a waiver.
Umeirra Savani, a ‘16 graduate who majored in political science, is Muslim and was born and raised in Cincinnati. Savani and her family had traveled back to the United States from the Middle East just a week before Trump’s executive order. Her father is a Canadian- Pakistani citizen with a green card for the United States.
“It’s very clear that it’s not just a ban from whatever countries,” Savani said. “It’s specifically countries that have immigrants and refugees coming from there. It’s specifically Muslim-dominated countries.”
Trump stated that the order would “keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America.”
“We don’t want them here,” Trump said. “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”
Despite Trump’s explanation, the executive order received backlash across the globe. In New York City, protesters gathered at John F. Kennedy Airport to demand the release of 11 refugees being held there. CNN estimated that the ban affects at least 134 million people in the seven Muslim-majority countries, regardless of visa status.
President Father Michael Graham sent out a school-wide email to address the situation. Director for Strategic Communications, Marketing & Communications Kelly Leon explained that Graham wanted to send out a more personal message to the Xavier community in addition to the numerous nationwide statements put out by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as well as the Jesuits as a whole. According to Leon, the order directly affects one student and two faculty members who are from the countries listed in the order.
“Father Graham really wanted to speak more directly to the Xavier community and let everyone know that we’re a welcoming place and that we’re here for the three people that we know of who are from the countries affected,” Leon said.
The message called for support of the international community present at the university and provided contact information for those experiencing uncertainty or who otherwise have questions regarding the order.
“Xavier prepares students for a world that is increasingly diverse, complex and interdependent,” Graham said in the message. “Furthermore, our Jesuit tradition compels us to be people for and with others. Driven by these commitments, I want to be clear that Xavier will remain steadfastly committed to being a diverse and inclusive community. All are welcome here regardless of faith, national origin or immigration status.”
Savani echoed Graham’s message and shared a story from her freshman year in high school that occurred on Sept. 11, 2008.
“I was wearing a hijab at the time,” Savani said. “I had been wearing a hijab for about three years. I was walking down the hall and a boy came up to me — a boy that I didn’t know — and he told me to go back to where I came from.”
Confused by the statement, Savani continued on with her day, but later she encountered the same boy in an empty hallway.
“He pushed me into a locker, spit on me and then told me to go back to where I came from,” Savani said. “He said, ‘Go back to where you came from, you terrorist.’ At that point I was like, OK, this is about the hijab. The one thing that hit me the most was that this kid did not know where I came from, what I believed… nothing.”
Nationally, the National Immigration Law Centre (NILC) and the ACLU filed a lawsuit in New York for the release of two Iraqi men who were on a plane when the order was signed and then detained upon landing.
One of the men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was released on Saturday afternoon under the provision that allows government officials to enter. The other man, Haider Sameer Abdulkaleq Alshawi, was still in detention despite having a visa and having lived in the United States as a refugee until Saturday night. The federal court for the Eastern District of New York issued an emergency stay, thus halting Trump’s executive order and freeing both Darweesh and Alshawi.
Savani believes that ignorance and fear surrounding the Muslim faith stems from a lack of education, not from a desire to hurt or single out Muslims in particular. She encourages anyone who feels strongly about political change to attend protests, volunteer on campaigns and contact government officials.
“Don’t just wave it off like it doesn’t affect you,” Savani said. “Just because it doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean that you should not care. We are built on diversity — the different color of our skin, the different color of our hair, the difference of our ideas… That’s what makes America the country I want to live in for the rest of my life.”