Hundreds of Austin residents and students demonstrated Sunday at Wooldridge Park against Gov. Greg Abbott’s effort to prohibit Syrian refugees from coming to Texas.
The Syrian People Solidarity Group decided to host this event after Greg Abbott stated that Texas will not be participating in the U.S. resettlement plan for Syrian refugees, citing concerns that no one can “guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity.” After the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed more than 120 people, governors of 31 states said they oppose entry to Syrian refugees in their states, according to CNN.
Citrine Al-Ghraowi, Syrian People Solidarity Group founder and international relations and global studies junior, said the demonstration sought to fight back against prejudice.
“Being Syrian means being terrorized by psychopathic individuals and then getting blamed for their actions,” Citrine Al-Ghraowi said to the crowd. “Being Syrian means being compared to a rabid dog by U.S. presidential candidates or blamed for the Paris attacks despite no Syrians or refugees being involved.”
The protesters want to show solidarity and support for the plight of the refugees, Citrine Al-Ghraowi said.
“Being Syrian means the U.S. will turn its back on you when you need it the most. We hear you. You are not alone. You are welcome here.” Citrine Al-Ghraowi said. “Greg Abbott, you are not my governor!”
The crowd chanted slogans such as “Deport Abbott” and “Abbott, let them in” and carried signs as they rallied and marched to Governor Abbott’s mansion.
Plan II junior Kate Coleman said she attended the event as a protest against the state’s reaction to Syrian refugees.
“I find Abbott’s choice very misguided, and I think, following a really tragic event, this is a very shameful response,” Coleman said.
Neal Mehrotra, first year law school student, said he thinks Abbott is justified in worrying about security concerns regarding the refugees.
“My concern is consistent with Senator [Ted] Cruz’s in that there needs to be a strong vetting process to ensure that refugees pose a non-substantial security threat,” Mehrotra said.
Refugees have to abide by strict security laws before they enter the U.S., making the issue less of a concern, Reem Harb, a club member and Middle Eastern studies graduate student, said.
“The screening process is long, deep and rigorous.” Harb said, “There is such little chance of a terrorist getting through. The threat is not real.”
Nour Al-Ghraowi, a club member and English junior, said Abbott should know that the refugees are not terrorists, but are escaping terrorists themselves.
“They have lost everything but the clothes on their bodies,” Nour Al-Ghraowi, who grew up in Syria and was recently granted her Visa and university acceptance, said. “We cannot be afraid. They are humans like me and you. They are not terrorists.”