In 1998, Amira Ebrahim ‘20 was only a year old when she moved to the United States from Egypt. Her move came only two years after President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which made it even more difficult for immigrants to become legal citizens in the United States. Now, nearly 20 years later, Ebrahim attends Fairfield University. Her father, Dr. Ahmed M. Ebrahim, is an associate professor of accounting at the Dolan School of Business and, despite the last couple of weeks, Ebrahim still believes that America is the place for her.
“I sometimes wonder, in darker moments, ‘Do I really belong here in America?’ Sometimes you wonder, is [America] really for everyone? But overall, I feel like with every great country, has its great problems so no, things are more into the light but I don’t change my opinion,” said Ebrahim. “I still think it is a great country; it is the best one.”
For many, however, their patriotism toward the United States has changed. On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travelers’ admission into the United States from seven countries.
“His executive order suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days,” said Dr. Gayle Alberda, an associate professor of politics at Fairfield. “It means that travelers who have dual nationality or nationally of Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Syria are not permitted to enter the U.S. for 90 days or be issued an immigrant or non-immigrant visa. Syrian refugees have an indefinite ban.”
The ban has received extreme backlash from the entire world, with some calling it a violation of amendment rights, specifically the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment which state that people have the right to freely exercise their religion and that those born or naturalized in the United States are granted the rights of American citizens. It has hit home for many students and faculty here at Fairfield like Muslim Chaplain Nargis Alizada. She immigrated from Afghanistan in 2001, just months before 9/11. Alizada explained that her initial experience was “rough.”
“I grew up constantly having to make sure that I knew the right answers if I were ever to be questioned. I always had to be on that ready mode,” said Alizada. “I think that ready mode has been the most defining aspect of my living in the United States.”
Immigrants, specifically those who practice the Islamic religion, have been targets of criticism long before Trump’s presidency. Islamophobia has plagued the U.S. and according to a report by the FBI, hate crimes spiked 67 percent against Muslims in 2015. This fear and hate stems from a multitude of issues, with the primary concern stemming back to terrorism. The fear toward the Islamic religion has increased in the last two years when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant attacked France and Belgium and threatened the United States.
Due to these terror attacks, many people in the U.S. have bridged an association between the radical extremist groups and the Islamic religion. This fear that the American people have of the Islamic religion, specifically outside of the United States, was one of the reasons Trump signed the executive order to ban the travel.
“We don’t want them here,” Trump said. “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”
This is not the first of travel bans to be installed by a president. The most recent ban before Trump came from the Obama administration in 2011 when Iraqi refugees plotted an alleged terrorist attack. The state department, according to CNN, stopped processing refugee applications for six months.
“President Obama required new screening process for Iraqi applicants after the incident,” stated Alberda. “Data from the State Department indicate that even with this new background check, refugees from Iraq were still admitted into the U.S.”
Both presidents have issued travel bans against refugees in the Middle East, however, some believe that Trump’s ban of seven countries was a direct target against the Muslim religion, rather than the people in the country.
“I’ve had an understanding that there’s always been an undertone of things that have been said by the majority in the country and I think with Trump’s presidency and everything that’s going on, I think for the first time, as desperate and sad as it sounds, we are seeing the true face of America, which is white supremacy,” said Alizada.
However, John Nikas ‘18 believes Trump is trying to preserve the safety of America.
“At the very least, Trump is keeping his campaign promise,” said Nikas. “While it is a rash decision, he is at least trying to put the safety of American citizens first.”
Although the United States feels unsafe to many, Fairfield is hoping to create a safe space for all students.
“This executive order will impact the international students on our Fairfield campus in terms of their travels. Also, Muslims on campus may feel targeted and fearful of others now that Trump has initiated this form of discrimination,” said Nadra Al-Hamwy ‘18.
Ophelie Rowe Allen, Ed.D, Interim Director of Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs talked about the atmosphere of the campus since the ban, as well as the help students can look for if they are experiencing a problem.
“The atmosphere on campus for those who have family or friends affected by this temporary executive order, is one of uncertainty and anxiousness,” stated Rowe Allen. “Although executive order travel bans have happened before, for our students who are here today, this is a very emotional time.”
She continued, “Fairfield stands ready to support and help them through this time.”
Despite Fairfield’s efforts, Alizada does not believe that the students of Fairfield have rallied behind the Muslim community.
“The support has not really been there from those who are not part of minority groups,” said Alizada, “and those who are not in the minority circles, which is the majority of our students.”
The Fairfield community directly affected by the ban were not comfortable speaking with The Mirror. At the time, they feared the safety for their citizenship and family. The Office of Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs will hold a Vigil on Wednesday at 6:30pm starting at the Stag Statue and then into the Barone Campus Center.