Seawolves acted quickly this week in organizing a march, a rally and an immigration law forum on Wednesday following President Donald Trump’s executive order, which banned citizens of seven Muslim majority nations from entering the United States.
The events were hastily put together after news broke of Graduate Student Vahideh Rasekhi being detained at JFK last Saturday as a result of President Trump’s executive order.
Approximately 350 people braved the finger-numbing cold to show their support at the Seawolf Solidarity Rally Wednesday night.
“I’m out here to support our campus community,” Cheryl Chambers, Associate Dean for Multicultural Affairs at the University, said. “What makes Stony Brook the university that it is, is the diversity.”
The theme of diversity was a common one throughout the evening. Sister Sanaa Nadim, Chaplain of Stony Brook’s Muslim Student Association, called diversity the University’s “lifeblood.”
Repercussions of the ban personally affected many members of the Stony Brook community, some of whom were out in the crowd on Wednesday.
“I’m Egyptian and there’s a chance I won’t be able to see my family for a while if a ban like this is put through,” Abdel Rahman Salama, President of SBU’s Arabic Club and member of the rugby team, said. “America used to be a country [that] a lot of people viewed as a safe haven. I don’t know what it is today.”
While Salama’s home country of Egypt was not one of the seven countries mentioned in the ban, in an interview with NBC, Reince Priebus, the White House Chief of Staff, said “perhaps more countries need to be added.”
Lawyers at the forum, which took place in the Wang Center Theater earlier that day, also advised international students that the ban will be extended to more countries. The new list of countries would include Egypt, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, Venezuela, Philippines and Mali, Alexander Rojas, an immigration lawyer representing Barst Mukamal & Kleiner LLP, said.
“I would advise anyone from those countries not to depart the United States,” Rojas said. “Many in the White House don’t like to call it a ban but we see it as such.”
More than 100 students attended the forum, which was hosted by the University’s Office of Global Affairs. Vice Provost of Global Affairs, Dr. Jun Liu, called upon the University’s “strong values of access and inclusiveness,” to introduce the event.
According to Rojas, the visa waiver interview program has also been suspended, which means that immigrants with expired U.S. visas are obligated to be interviewed by a US consular officer. Green card holders from the seven affected countries are subject to a case-by-case analysis by immigration officers.
“Expect additional screening and security if traveling to and from the seven affected countries,” Rojas said.
Simultaneous to the information session, around 200 students marched across the academic mall. “Hey hey, ho ho, islamophobia has to go,” and “no ban, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” were some of the chants made by the marching students.
The event was organized by Stony Brook College Democrats, New York Civil Liberties Union, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Stony Brook University and Coalition University Students for Progress.
“Your presence here today is invaluable. Your spirit is irreplaceable,” Taylor Mendelbaum, a representative from Coalition of Students for Progress, said to the group of eager onlookers. “We march here today with our Stony Brook family, with our national family, with our global family.”
With the campus being home to 4,430 nonresident students in both the undergraduate and graduate population, many had either known or heard of someone affected by the policy.
“My friend who lived in the U.S. for almost a decade was detained at JFK on Saturday,” Agatha Lyccek, a medical student, said.
A combination of word of mouth and social media were instrumental in getting the word out to the wider campus community.
“We wanted an effort that started from the biggest part of the campus community and after we heard that there were Seawolves themselves being detained it just wasn’t okay for us to stay quiet,” Mahum Siddiqui, vice president of the FMLA, said. “We were in contact with the MSA. We’ve been in contact with the Iranian groups. There’s just so much collaboration happening.”