By ELIZABETH LANDRY
Asst. News Co-Editor
Late in the afternoon of Jan. 30, the Fordham Lincoln Center (FLC) plaza was filled with nearly one hundred students and a handful of faculty members, assembled against President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. Organized overnight by unapproved club Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and members of Black Student Alliance (BSA), Muslim Students Association (MSA), Desi Chai, Student Organization of Latinos (SOL), Rainbow Alliance, Feminist Alliance, and the Student Solidarity Network, the event’s speeches ranged from personal testimony about the executive order to a call for the administration to approve the SJP.
Seen by many as a “Muslim ban” after aggressive campaign rhetoric by Trump promising to stop the entry of Muslim immigrants to the U.S., the Jan. 27 order entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” barred from U.S. entry to virtually all people traveling on passports from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen for 90 days and barred all refugees for 120 days. It has drawn ire and fear from civil rights and immigration advocates across the country. After only one day a federal judge had issued a temporary stay suspending implementation, though there were reports that it had been disregarded by a number of airports.
Fordham University President Joseph M. McShane, S.J., sent a statement out by email to the Fordham community on Jan. 29 revealing that at least seven students may be affected by the order, and that the university had reached out to them. He included a link to a university information page with resources for undocumented students eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, to which Fordham adheres. “Please be assured that Fordham University stands with the tens of thousands of refugees and would-be immigrants affected by these laws,” he writes. “We have a long history as a University of and for immigrants, in a city and a nation built by immigrants.”
“We must demand more than words from Fordham,” Sophia Dadap, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’18, said during the rally. She presented the three demands the clubs had for the university, which comprised clear and public denunciation of the “Muslim ban,” and the Trump administration “for its blatant racism, and clear and public commitment to “the absolute protection of all its students, especially its oppressed students, regardless of what laws are in place.”
Students from several of the co-sponsoring clubs spoke at the event, punctuated by chants against the Trump administration. Three drew from their families’ histories to illuminate their message. Martin Nuñez-Bonilla, FCLC ’18, represented SOL, and painted an image of an immigrant mother who is now told she is not welcome, “when all she has done is contribute her body and soul to a country in hopes of calling it home. That is not democracy,” he added, and called the ban racist for barring immigrants based on where they come from.
Hend Elmadboly, FCLC ’18, represented MSA, and spoke about her father’s life and her family’s journey from Egypt, through middle America to New York. “[My father] sacrificed everything and has truly fulfilled the American Dream,” she said. “I have no intention of denouncing any part of my identity, no matter how uncomfortable it makes others. This country is held up by us immigrants, not held back.”
Areeg Abdelhamid, FCLC ’17, described the difficult divide between her family, first-generation immigrants, and the American perception of and violence against Muslims, saying, “We were murdered abroad, our children starved, our lands were covered with the ashes of drones and here we are, running back to her, asking her for refuge, to open her doors because we are not ready to die. Asking that she protects us, that she helps us just as we have built her.” She closed with a quote on unity from the Qur’an in both Arabic and English.
Alysha Kundanmal, FCLC ’17, who represented Desi Chai, said that the executive order is racist and xenophobic. “But we will not tolerate fascism,” she said. She also called McShane’s statement “deeply flawed” because the administration has stood by its decision to refuse SJP approval.
The students from SJP took the opportunity to call attention to their year-long club application process which ended in an approval by United Student Government (USG) but a veto by Dean of Students Keith Eldredge. “Now we’re just going ahead with whatever we wanna do because that’s ridiculous,” said Dadap. “I mean, the whole point of a statement of solidarity with Muslim students, with immigrant students, it’s nothing if you don’t actually take any action to support those students.”
Sapphira Lurie, FCLC ’17, said on behalf of SJP, “We will continue to build a militant, fight-back movement against apartheid and occupation, against US imperialism, against Israeli settler-colonialism,” to isolated cheers.
At the end of the event, a student from the audience read an excerpt from poet Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” which is inscribed at the feet of the Statue of Liberty. Lurie and Lexi McMenamin, FCLC ’17, encouraged the audience to continue to be involved in campus organizing and activism in public forums. “You cannot be indifferent right now,” McMenamin told the crowd.
After the rally, Eldredge said, “It’s certainly an important issue that’s affecting not just Fordham students but the country at large and so I’m glad that the students were able to come together and take action on campus to express their opinions.” He later added, “I am glad that one of the organizers of the rally reached out to me in advance as per the University’s demonstration policy so that I could work with her and the organizers and offer the university’s support to the event.”
Audience member Jolee Cobb, FCLC ’19, said she has been involved with activism both on and off campus, and that “I feel like it would be nice to see more support from professors and actual faculty. Last year when we had the solidarities for the black students here, there was a larger gathering, but hopefully with time it will get bigger.”
Judge James Robart of Seattle issued a temporary nationwide suspension of several key provisions of the order in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 3, which was upheld on Feb. 5, suspending the ban.