Nearly 60 faculty, staff, and graduate students of the History Department at UCI signed a statement on change.org condemning the executive order issued by President Trump on Jan. 27 which suspends the resettlement of refugees and bans entry to nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The statement, written by a group of concerned faculty, calls upon UCI, UCOP, the Regents, Legislature and Governor of California to “refuse to abide by, acquiesce to, or otherwise aid in the enforcement of this or similar executive orders and policies.” In addition, petitioners urge UCI’s administration to “engage in all feasible efforts to press the Trump administration to rescind the order immediately” and “do all in their power to protect faculty, staff and students who have been directly affected.”
According to LeVine, this statement is part of a global movement of educators who have realized the implications of this ban on students, faculty and the community. Similar statements have been signed by other UCI departments and programs including Global Middle East Studies and Art History. Many faculty members have also signed the statements of organizations they belong to individually, such as the California Scholars for Academic Freedom and the Middle East Studies Association.
“We feel that [this executive order] is part of an attempt to bring in the US security services into universities to monitor or even try to sweep up our students, and we will not allow our universities to be used in that way,” said LeVine in an interview. “It is a violation of the right to education, and it is a violation of all of our moral and ethical principles as educators.”
LeVine believes that the Trump administration’s actions “are not unique,” but are “part of a larger attempt by him to securitize on almost every aspect of public life, and to create a climate of hostility and hatred for Muslims.”
“For historians, this rings very true in terms of its similarities to ways other groups have been demonized in the past, in preparations for large-scale violence against them. We are very afraid for our students, and we are very disgusted by the actions of our government,” he said.
On Saturday, Feb. 4, federal judge James L. Robart of Washington issued a ruling which temporarily blocked enforcement of the executive order. Trump responded by tweeting, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” LeVine believes that Trump’s response indicates that he is seeking to delegitimize the judiciary.
“This is quite literally the first step in a dictatorship — ignoring and delegitimizing the courts, accompanied by the delegitimization of the media. Anytime we have a leader that does that, these are two glaring warning signs of an authoritarian regime,” said LeVine. “If they get away with that, you no longer have warning signs of an authoritarian regime, but you are living in an authoritarian regime.”
LeVine holds that while protecting the country is not illegitimate, banning refugees, asylum seekers, and green card holders “from countries that have never attacked us, but in fact whom we have attacked” does not keep the United States safe. He also believes that since America is a signatory to the convention on refugees, it has a constitutional obligation to accept refugees.
“The idea that this is being done to protect us is a joke. As an analysis by the libertarian Cato Institute points out, the chances of an American being killed by an asylum seeker or refugee is 3.64 and 2.73 billion to one respectively. There is no alt-fact that can change that reality.”
LeVine recommends that other student groups and faculty departments issue similar statements condemning the executive order.
“It is absolutely crucial that the academic community, which is one of the communities most directly and immediately impacted by the ban, speak up in a forceful and unified manner, so Americans understand what is at stake.”