President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday, Jan. 27 banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, and halting America’s resettlement program for Syrian refugees. The 90-day immigration ban includes non-immigrant visa holders and lawful U.S. permanent residents travelling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In a campus-wide email sent Saturday night, UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman noted that “UCI has 154 students and scholars from these countries,” and expressed his “deep concern for our students, scholars and others who will be personally affected by this order.”
Shortly before the release of Chancellor Gillman’s email on Saturday night, amid detentions and protests at airports nationwide, a federal judge granted a temporary stay on President Trump’s order. In Brooklyn, US District Court Judge Ann Donnelly ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed a case on behalf of two men detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport due to Trump’s order. The stay assures that travellers, many of whom were visa holders, will not be detained and deported as a result of the order. However, the stay is only temporary, and its permanence must be ruled on by a court at a later date.
The constitutionality of the ban and the merit of its intentions have been widely criticized by those who feel that the ban constitutes religious discrimination. In a controversial statement, Trump said in a Friday interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) that America would prioritize admitting Christian refugees from the seven banned countries over Muslim refugees.
“[Christians have] been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States?” said Trump to CBN. “If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair.”
Many UCI students have expressed anger over the “Muslim ban,” calling it a betrayal to America’s core principles. The Muslim Student Union issued a statement on Jan. 29 in response.
“The Muslim Student Union stands against the many ways in which anti-Muslim and xenophobic hatred manifests itself, including hate speech and hate crimes; institutionalized racism and state-sanctioned violence; racial and religious profiling in all its forms; and prejudice that targets refugees and immigrants of all backgrounds,” MSU representatives said.
Additionally, several campus organizations representing “undocumented, refugee, Muslim, Arab and Iranian Students” said in a joint statement that they “condemn President Trump’s recent executive orders to construct a wall and to ban legal immigration from several Muslim-majority countries.”
The signatories, including Hearts of Mercy at UCI, Fresh START at UCI, the Muslim Student Union, the Society of Arab Students and Iranian Student Union, also called the University of California administration to “stand up for the rights of international students to study in the United States, to refuse to release the immigration status of students, and to defend the student visa program.”
Chancellor Gillman, in his official statement on the matter, also expressed concerns for the ban’s implications on UCI’s values and community.
“I am… concerned about the order’s impact on the ability of universities to pursue our mission,” said Gillman. “I agree with the statement today by the Association of American Universities that the order ‘is already causing damage and should end as quickly as possible.’”
Noting that the stay on the Muslim ban is only temporary, several UCI communities have arranged protests and actions this week to express their disapproval of Trump’s policy, and show solidarity with immigrants, refugees and the Muslim community.
After the executive order announcement, UCI students Mahan Naeim and Wa’el Nimat began organizing a “No Ban, No Wall” protest at UCI’s flagpoles, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
“Donald Trump’s ban on certain Arab and Iranian immigration is demonic, racist, Islamophobic and unconstitutional. His ‘executive’ orders have already caused the unjust detainment of asylum seekers, immigrants, and individuals who have lived in the United States for a number of generations,” wrote the organizers on Facebook. “His 50 billion dollar [Mexican border] wall order criminalizes immigrant communities and disrespects the people who are vital to this country’s success. We cannot sit by quietly as Donald Trump continues his policies and attacks on People of Color, Muslims, LGBT community, women, and far too many underrepresented groups.”
Members of ASUCI Senate also plan to push a legislation addressing the Muslim ban at their meeting on Tuesday evening, from 5 to 7 p.m.
In addition to UCI student leaders and Chancellor Gillman, UC President Janet Napolitano issued a statement on Sunday stating that she was “deeply concerned” about the executive order’s implications, and committing to support impacted students.
“While maintaining the security of the nation’s visa system is critical, this executive order is contrary to the values we hold dear as leaders of the University of California,” said Napolitano. “It is critical that the United States continues to welcome the best students, scholars, scientists, and engineers of all backgrounds and nationalities.”