EL Islamic Community Experiences “Uncertainty and Anxiety” from New Immigration Orders

Sunday, January 29, 2017, 11:32 am
Alice Dreger

Above: President Donald Trump, left (courtesy Wikipedia); Thasin Sardar and his son Amaan at the Women's March on Lansing last weekend, right (courtsey Thasin Sardar).

“Uncertainty and anxiety.” That is how Thasin Sardar, Outreach Coordinator for the Islamic Center of East Lansing, answered when asked by ELi what the Muslim community in and around East Lansing is going through in the wake of President Donald Trump’s orders targeting individuals from certain predominantly-Muslim nations.

Sardar told ELi by email this morning, “People are unsure of the how far reaching these executive orders are and what else is in the pipeline. Several of them are upset and even angry that they are being scapegoated because of our faith.” He added, “This is simply against spirit and law of the land.”

“We expect that MSU might soon make a statement similar to University of Michigan’s, denouncing Trump’s immigration decisions,” Sardar told ELi. “We applaud University of Michigan for adhering to its non-discrimination policy by rejecting the new administration's demands for students' immigration data. They have a taken a principled stance to respect the civil rights of their students and to foster a safe environment for them.”

Sardar is referring to a statement issued yesterday by University of Michigan’s President Mark S. Schlissel. That indicates, among other things, that University of Michigan’s “campus police do not inquire about or record immigration status when performing their duties.” Schlissel also said, “The university complies with federal requirements associated with managing its international programs. Otherwise, the university does not share sensitive information like immigration status.”

Asked this morning whether MSU will be providing anything similar, MSU Medical Communications spokesperson Jason Cody responded to ELi, “Did UM do something? I saw the statement Schlissel put out but I wasn’t aware they were doing anything specifically.”

Cody continued, “Here at MSU, we have a group of folks from across campus who have been monitoring the situation for a few weeks, met Friday evening after the order was signed and has been discussing the situation throughout the weekend. At this point we have sent a direct communication to all of those students from the affected countries, providing support and guidance.”

“We believe strongly in the benefits of a diverse and global student body and work force,” Cody’s statement continued, “and MSU officials will be meeting this week to understand other university operations that may be impacted by the executive order.”

According to the New York Times, Trump’s order, issued Friday afternoon, “suspended entry for all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.”

The visa ban is also being applied to those who hold dual nationality with any of these nations, reports the Wall Street Journal. Consequently citizens of, for example, Canada or the U.K. who also hold citizenship in any of the targeted nations are currently banned from entry.

On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security interpreted the new rule as not applying “to people with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders,” according to CNN. But the White House “overruled that guidance overnight,” requiring that Homeland Security consider the status of green card holders on a case-by-case basis.

According to Sardar, this has caused widespread confusion and fear about travel. Some green-card holders are afraid to visit their families lest they be unable to re-enter the U.S. Sardar tells ELi, “I know of at least one Iraqi family that has suspended their travel plans to Iraq because, as they will not be let back into the country when they return.”

Aron Sousa, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at MSU’s College of Human Medicine, explains, “The entry ban effects not just East Lansing students, faculty, staff from those countries, it will also impact statewide MSU-affiliated medical residents and faculty, who teach health careers students across the state.”

Says Sousa, “The truth is that people come from around the world to care for and learn from people in Michigan, and many of these resident physicians and faculty physicians work in the state's most underserved communities in return for their training in the U.S.”  

Last night, news site Cleveland.com reported that “An internal medicine resident at the Cleveland Clinic, who is a citizen of Sudan, said Saturday she was detained in New York when she was trying to return to Ohio after a trip to Saudi Arabia and was put on a plane back to the Middle East.”

ABC News Detroit affiliate WXYZ is reporting that “thousands” are planning to march tonight at Detroit Metro Airport to protest the ban. Sardar tells ELi, “I am planning on going to the rally.”


Update: MSU's President later issued a statement.

Disclosure: Alice Dreger (reporter) is married to Aron Sousa.


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