by Brooke Winters
President Trump’s executive order banning refugees from entering the United States for 120 days and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia for 90 days has faced extreme scrutiny from both the general public and the United States judicial system. This executive order spurred protests across airports all over the country. The Trump administration’s lack of clear communication about the executive order resulted in an unclear picture of who this travel ban would affect. Conflicting statements regarding how green card holders and those with dual citizenship would be affected added to the confusion and public backlash. On Feb. 3, Washington and Minnesota filed lawsuits against the Trump administration in response to this executive order, resulting in Federal Judge James Robart to issue a temporary restraining order on the ban. On Feb. 4, the Justice Department asked the 9th Circuit San Francisco U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse Robart’s decision. The court denied this request on Feb. 5.
On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the San Francisco 9th Circuit Court heard arguments from the Justice Department and attorneys from Washington and Minnesota. The two states’ arguments centered on whether the executive order violates the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment, both dealing with questions regarding if the executive order discriminates based on religion and national origin. The court must decide if it will uphold Robart’s decision or overturn it.
The reaction at Drew University to this immigration ban has been significant. Professor Marie-Pascale Pieretti, Chair of the Humanities Program and of the French and Italian Department, teaches a class titled Mass Migration in the 21st Century, Peril or Opportunity?. She offered her unique perspective as both an immigrant and a professor of the humanities. She detailed how her 21st century migration course came about, saying, “At the time I was thinking about possible topics, I was reading a lot about the refugee crisis in Europe over a year ago and noted that less was said on this crisis in U.S. media which sparked my attention.” This recent turn of events from the Trump administration resulted in what Pieretti views as an increased sense of urgency for students to become fully informed on the topics of immigration and refugees.
In the classroom, Pieretti invites fellow faculty experts from various fields to educate students from a variety of perspectives. Pieretti also said, “This is happening in the context of security measures taken since 9/11 and I understand this context, but I feel what President Trump has done with this order is incomprehensible in the US context of diversity and religious freedom. Banning Muslim majority countries results in rejecting large ethnic and religious groups, putting us in very dangerous seas.” Pieretti also went on to say she hopes her class helps students approach the current political situation rationally and promotes civic engagement as a tool for positive change.
Assistant Professor of the Political Science Department Sangay Mishra compared this executive order to previous exclusionary acts regarding immigration, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and The Immigration Act of 1924, which established quotas on the number of immigrants allowed based on national origin. More recently, he said this executive order could be compared to NSEERS, which was a program early after 9/11 that required people from 25 countries, most of which were predominately Muslim, to undergo extensive vetting from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This program was scrapped partially in 2011 and entirely in 2016. Professor Mishra said, “But even after 9/11 there was no blanket ban on any particular group. There was a sense of fear and people didn’t know what was going to happen. While laws did come into place like the Patriot Act, there was no blanket ban on a country.”
Professor Mishra also commented on the impact this executive order will have on refugees. With the current ongoing refugee crisis in Syria, this is an urgent issue. He said, “As someone who studies immigration, this order is unprecedented. The other part of the executive order is there is a blanket ban on refugees. The refugee process is a longer process of vetting, so even they are banned now.”
He went on to say, “My hope is that the court will keep on the stay and there will be a more reasonable restriction based on a real threat and real intelligence. This seems more like fulfilling a campaign promise, and we all know during primaries and the general election Donald Trump promised to ban all Muslims, period, without thinking.”
Drew students have also expressed their views toward President Trump’s executive order. Maggie Holloway (‘20) said, “Trump’s immigration ban was, unfortunately, not a surprise to me, but I was horrified nonetheless when it was enacted.” Holloway continued, saying, “It conflates the ideology of radical Islam with the ideology of the faith as a whole, thereby labeling an entire religion, which is composed of a large and diverse group of people, as a terrorist organization.”
Holloway added that she worried the executive order would “ inevitably perpetuate the Islamophobia that already exists in our country” due to Trump’s danger rhetoric. Holloway concluded, “My heart hurts to think of the people living in this country who will be marginalized and discriminated against because of this action, as well as immigrants whose lives depend on access to the United States and may not be allowed entry.”
There will be several on campus events held in the near future in response to President Trump’s immigration ban. Leslie Loffredo (‘19) said, “Immigration is such an important topic right now, so we decided to take action and plan an event in March. This event will have international food, music, and an art project that celebrates multiculturality and diversity in our campus.”
Jonathan Golden, who serves as Drew’s Director of the Center on Religion, Culture, and Conflict, said, “There are numerous things going on, many initiated by students. This Thursday, students are gathering in the EC at noon to write letters to their congresspeople. Students are offering English tutoring, and CRCC and Civic Engagement are leading the New Neighbors School Success program, which includes providing kids with backpacks filled with school supplies donated by Staples. Civic Scholars are organizing a fundraising event, bringing a refugee to campus to share their story.”
Golden also detailed multiple workshops that will be happening in the next few weeks. He said, “There is a know-your-rights workshop scheduled for Feb. 24 and a Freedom School workshop on Religious Pluralism in America on March 27. What is so exciting is this spirit of ‘stand up and do something.’ We are seeing it around the world, around the country, and on our campus!”
On Thursday evening, the 9th Circuit Court ruled 3-0 against reinstating the travel ban. This means that the citizens of the seven previously banned countries will be able to enter the United States.
In response to this ruling, President Trump tweeted, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”
It is possible for this case to move on to the Supreme Court, where a potential 4-4 split would result in the 9th Circuit’s ruling being upheld.