Editor’s Note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the sources’ identities.
Between dealing with consultations with immigration lawyers and patiently waiting for his family’s green card approval, Syrian-American Omar Said was devastated by the effects and implications of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, and decided not to stay silent.
Shortly after learning that even green card holders and Canadian citizens who were nationals of the seven countries affected by Trump’s executive order were having a difficult time entering the U.S., Said’s family, who are currently living in two different countries, were in a state of shock.
“My sister is still waiting to hear back about her green card interview,“ Said, a graduate student, said. “Honestly I’m very worried that she won’t hear from the American consulate anytime soon, meaning she won’t be able to come back here like she was hoping.”
Last weekend, immigration lawyers contacted Said’s father, a permanent resident of Austin, and warned him to not leave the country until the heat from the ban disappears. He also bore the tragic news that his mother would not be able to come home immediately from Canada.
“Thankfully, the decision by Justice Yates will supposedly allow my family to travel from and back to the U.S.,” Said said. “They are still worried about leaving the country and are being very careful not to do so unless needed.”
In addition to suspending the U.S. refugee program, Trump also issued a temporary ban of people coming into the U.S. from seven predominantly-Muslim nations: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen, resulting in airport protests demanding the release of Muslim detainees, including one in Austin
attended by Said.
“There were Jewish-American speakers who spoke about the same ordeal that they went through,” Said said. “There were women, people from the LGBTQ community, Hispanic-American protesters and African-American protesters, creating a beautiful rainbow of diversity and solidarity that gave me hope about the future of our country.”
Activists, organizations and politicians are condemning Trump’s decision to indefinitely suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and are calling Trump’s Muslim ban un-American and unconstitutional.
For biology senior Hareem Usmani, it’s important for Muslim-Americans to embrace their identities.
“Trump’s islamophobic rhetoric often makes a Muslim versus American dichotomy, but we are showing that dichotomy does not exist,” Usmani said. “We are Muslim and American and proud to be both.”
As a result of Trump’s policy, precisely known as “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” over 100 Muslims
reentering the country and refugees have been detained all over the country, including students attending American universities.
“The Syrian refugee crisis is the most devastating human crisis of our generation,” Said said, “I was hoping that we would accept more refugees but instead we have decided to focus all of the blame on helpless families that had nothing to do with the situation that they are in.”
According to Said, politics start at the local level, and uniting the voices of young Muslim-American activists to achieve influence in the political system and combat discriminatory policies requires working with like-minded people and holding elected officials accountable. Although the ban has been temporarily lifted, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“I ask all young Muslim-Americans to fully embrace the fact that we are living in a free country so that they can express their opinions and concerns civilly, peacefully and diplomatically,” Said said. “I also ask our young Muslim-American community to build bridges and to connect with other communities and help them protest any unjust treatment they might receive.”