DREAMers on Grounds and MRC hosted a rally against Trump’s executive order

Original: The Cavalier Daily  January 30, 2017

“It’s time that we spoke up for them and spoke with them,” third-year College student Attiya Latif, chair of the Minority Rights Coalition, said of undocumented students and immigrants as she addressed hundreds of protesters gathered on the Lawn.

The group, composed of University students, faculty and Charlottesville community members, rallied in front of the Rotunda before marching through Grounds to their final destination of Peabody Hall while chanting in protest of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration order signed Friday.

The executive order — entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” — bars refugees and those traveling from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States if they are not naturalized citizens. So far, the order has an effect on University students as well.

The Trump administration has said the order is meant to reduce threats of terror, but critics of the executive order say it is more of a ban on Islam than a way to reduce terrorism.

The order was partially halted by a federal judge in Saturday night, issuing a court order stating the executive order cannot send away travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. However, the travelers cannot enter the United States, leaving them trapped in ports of entry.

Judges in four other states, including Virginia, have since made similar rulings.

The rally heard from several speakers, one of which was Javad Jarrahi, a fourth-year College student and president of the Iranian Student Association.

“First off, I’m not afraid,” Jarrahi said before the crowd of protesters. “This is for the love of my life, who broke down in tears because she cannot visit her mother anymore.”

Jarrahi later told The Cavalier Daily in an interview he wasn’t worried about his name being used in an article because he is a citizen, but his friend, a first-year Graduate student in the College asked her name not be used because she is not a citizen.

When she was asked why she went to the protest today, she said, “I am from Iran. I want to stand for my country.”

Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy also attended the rally and spoke with his two daughters by his side. He came dressed in a grey sweatsuit, which he said was intentional.

“The suits and the people who think they make the decisions aren’t going to be the ones who save us,” Bellamy said. “I’m not talking to you today as the vice mayor of Charlottesville, but as a black man who is your brother.”

Bellamy encouraged the crowd to demand change by becoming more politically active.

“It’s time for us to stand up,” Bellamy said. “When we talk about the pressure, when we talk about what we’re going to do, it goes to the city council meetings, it goes to our state legislators whether that’s Delegate [David] Toscano, whether that’s Congressman Tom Garrett, whether that’s Senator [Mark] Warner, and even up to that butthole that we call President Donald Trump.”

The organizers had planned to have refugees in Charlottesville speak today, but ultimately decided not to.

“We wanted to have local refugees to come speak today but realized it wasn’t safe,” Politics Prof. Bob Kubinec said in his speech.

Following the speeches, the crowd began chanting slogans such as “say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” and, “no hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” while moving down the Lawn.

Latif said the event was quickly organized overnight after a professor at the Mid-Atlantic People of Color Conference held in Washington D.C. urged the audience to act on issues now. Latif also credited the event’s creation to University students and Charlottesville community members looking for an event in opposition to the executive order.

“We reached out to the local police department, administrators and Wes Bellamy so we just got a lot of local support,” Latif said. “I think the issue was so salient that everyone wanted to come and show support.”

Third-year Commerce student Evelyn Wang, chief publicity officer of the MRC, said the march was important to host in order to show solidarity with students affected by the executive order in light of the political climate surrounding immigration.

“We need to demonstrate that we need to protect our students, we’re going to keep pushing administration to do more,” Wang said. “We are going to make sure that students at U.Va. feel safe here and know that they are supported and protected and that we are going to fight for their rights.”

What the University has done so far

University President Teresa Sullivan sent an email to the community Sunday addressing concerns of how the order could affect students. The email said University leaders have met with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students Jan. 27 to both welcome them back for the semester and offer support.

DACA, a 2012 executive order signed by former President Barack Obama, allows deferment for removal and the ability to obtain work permits for undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States as children. Trump has previously stated he would reverse DACA and deport undocumented immigrants.

Trump is yet to rescind DACA, however, and told ABC News Jan. 25 that a policy is expected to be announced within four weeks.

She said the University also communicated with students affected by the executive order, providing advice to not travel abroad until the specifics on the order’s implementation are clarified.

“We are consulting with University leaders and others with expertise related to these issues, and we are seeking advice from the immigration attorneys appointed by the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Sullivan said. “Our University continues to enunciate values that support the bedrock principles of individual freedom, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion.”

Latif said the precedent set by the University of Michigan’s recent announcement to not release students’ immigration statuses — “except when required by law” — should guide how the University chooses to protect its own students.

“We want to see further protection and commitment to the protection of undocumented students at this University, of immigrant students and international students at this University, and of Muslim students at this University,” Latif said. “So having that precedent being set is a step in the right direction, and we’re hoping the University will also follow suit, will also take measures to protect its students.”

Director of the International Studies Office Dudley Doane said the International Studies Office is currently working with internal and external legal counsel to determine the specific implications for University students with different kinds of visas.

“How the order will be interpreted and how it will be implemented, those are key questions for people in our office,” Doane said.

Doane said although the ISO cannot say if the University can legally protect students’ immigration statuses, all students’ information is in some way protected.

“There are substantial protections of any student in regard to the release of information, regardless of citizenship,” Doane said.