After only one week in office, President Trump issued an executive order on immigration in the United States causing chaos and confusion in airports all across the world.
The executive order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” established Jan. 27, banned travelers from seven countries from entering the United States for 90 days. The countries affected by the ban were Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
In an attempt to inform the world about President Trump’s sudden executive order against immigrants and refugees, qualified educators, advocates and lawyers in Muslim and immigration affairs hosted a virtual National Teach-In on Feb. 8. Organizers encouraged universities and colleges across the globe to participate in the live-stream of the discussion.
DePauw was one of many universities, like Harvard University, Georgetown University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that offered their students the opportunity to listen to the discussion and ultimately participate in asking questions to the seven panelists. Director of International Student Services Aliza Frame wanted to provide DePauw students the opportunity to participate in the teach-in.
“This is a time when there’s a very important national conversation on immigration and the future of immigration in our country,” Frame said. “As an academic community, we think it is very important that we provide the opportunity for students to learn and engage in these kinds of topics.”
The panelists engaged in the conversation regarding the ban were comprised of professors anywhere from George Washington University to ACLU of West Virginia.
Following the executive order’s immediate implementation, a federal district court in Seattle, Washington has temporarily restrained the ban on the grounds of entangling religion by way of immigration, according to Khaled Beydoun. “Obviously, this order had immediate impact on individuals from these seven countries, refugees who were trying to come back into the country…” Beydoun said.
Most panelists attempted to clarify confusion associated with the order; however, Stanford University’s Nisrin Elamin provided a firsthand experience of ban’s effect on passengers and travelers. Elamin was one of over 100 people detained under the executive order on her way back from Sudan.
While Elamin was finally released after hours of waiting, she explained how, “…many others were deported back to where they boarded their planes…some were separated from their families.”
Both immigrants and non-immigrants attempting to enter the United States were barred from boarding their flights due to Trump’s executive order. Elamin explained that some travelers could not board their planes, despite having visas.
What surprised Elamin most about the entire process was how the outcome of people’s detention depended on the officer in charge of the background check. Elamin stated, “The right language of the order in some parts is quite vague, which can then leave as much up for interpretation by individual officers who had their own biases.”
Other panelists like Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences at Northwestern University Shirin Vossoughi argued the importance of educators discussing the issue in the classroom and having a plan. “I think it’s essential for us to recognize these occurrences and to understand impact that they’re having on students and their families and communities,” Vossoughi said.
When Frame first heard of the teach-in, she was quick to request access to the video lesson in hopes that students could find it both informative and valuable. Students like First-Year Gabbie Allread knew little on the issue before attending the event. “…after figuring out what it was actually for, I was more intrigued on the topic because I’m pretty oblivious to politics, especially recent news,” Allread said.
Allread was not the only student unaware of the ban’s impact. First-Year Blaire Bund also learned about the executive order by attending the National Teach-In. “I learned a lot. I feel like each professor explained what’s going on right now…” Bund said, “But I think it’s important just for people to know that DePauw’s still a safe place.”
Ultimately, both believed viewing the teach-in was beneficial for them and other DePauw students. “I think DePauw has such a large group of international students and representatives of every culture that discussing the current dangerous of many of them is important in order to keep our campus calm and functioning,” said Allread.
Although the ninth circuit court has temporarily halted the ban, Frame, like many others, does not know if parts of the order will be upheld. “Currently, those government agencies are not acting on the executive order. That doesn’t mean some version of it will not get passed,” Frame said.
Luckily, no students attending DePauw are currently affected by the ban; however, in order to ensure all students informed on the issues occurring in our country, Frame and the Intercultural Student Life department have been speaking with concerned students and making sure students have resources as well as access to the most up to date information regarding immigration.
“We want to make sure students’ questions are answered as best we possibly can,” Frame said. “There’s so much information being shared online that we want students to be able to filter through that to know what is really happening.”
DePauw plans to hold more events, structured to answer students’ questions, address concerns, and ultimately clarify decisions being made by the government according to Frame.
In an email sent to students on Feb. 14, Vice President for Student Academic Life and Dean of Experiential Learning Alan Hill informed students that Immigration law expert Jenifer Brown will come to DePauw. Brown will provide the latest information regarding the recent executive order as well as guidance with individuals in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Undocumented status.