Hundreds protest Trump’s immigration ban at Elizabeth rally

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Photo credit: Rebecca Panico
Rebecca Panico | Published Jan. 30, 2017

A Muslim Kean student joined hundreds of protesters at a detention center in Elizabeth yesterday to rally against President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration.

“We have to keep fighting!” shouted Asmaa Abdalla, a biology major at Kean, to much applause from her friends. “We have to keep protesting! We can’t let Trump get his way!”

Asmaa Abdalla, a biology and major at Kean and member of the Muslim Student Association, was one of hundreds who protested in Elizabeth on Sunday against President Donald Trump's immigration executive order. Credit: Rebecca Panico

Asmaa Abdalla, a biology and major at Kean and member of the Muslim Student Association, was one of hundreds who protested in Elizabeth on Sunday against President Donald Trump’s immigration executive order. Credit: Rebecca Panico

Trump’s executive order indefinitely bars all refugees coming to the U.S. from Syria, a country immersed in a bloody civil war. It also temporarily bars entry of all refugees for 120 days, and bans immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries for three months.

Trump said in a statement released to major media outlets yesterday that he would start issuing visas to all countries once they’ve reviewed and implemented a more secure vetting process.

Abdalla, an Egyptian immigrant who recently ran for Jersey City Board of Education, came with her mom, two brothers and friends to the protest. Although her native country isn’t affected by the ban, she said she “hurts” for those in the seven nearby countries.

“[Trump’s] family wasn’t born in America,” she said after the protest. “We’re all immigrants. We should all be welcomed here. I think it’s ridiculous that we just have to go through this.”

Make the Road NJ, which says it fights for immigrant justice, organized the rally. Local legislators, including U.S. Senator Cory Booker and State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) attended, and both Muslim and Jewish religious leaders showed their support.

Three Rutgers University students at the rally said Kean and other colleges should become sanctuary campuses, adopting policies which protect undocumented students.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi has only said he’d protect students’ private information unless required by law, and has not explicitly used the terminology “sanctuary campus” to describe the university.

“I think what the University of Michigan did was incredible and that all sanctuary schools should follow in their footsteps,” said Ruchika Talwar, 24, a Rutgers student. “Not only have students speak out against what’s happening and protect the DREAM-ers, but also say we refuse to release any sort of information at all to any interested parties regarding our students immigration status.”

Kean University has not yet issued an official statement since Trump signed the executive order on Friday. A Kean spokeswoman referred The Tower to a joint statement signed in December by President Dawood Farahi and eight other schools in the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities which reminded students that their private information is currently protected under FERPA laws.

“To our students who have registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)program, or who have concerns about their immigration rights, we pledge to support you and help to provide advice,” the statement read. “Students should be aware that colleges and universities are considered ‘sensitive locations’ under federal immigration policy, and federal immigration officials will generally not take enforcement actions on campus.”

Abdalla said she’d “definitely look into” working to make Kean become a sanctuary campus.

“I think we should definitely try to do the same thing,” she said of other universities’ sanctuary status. “I’m sure there are a lot of people from Kean that are on a visa or something. I think we should definitely try to make that movement.”

Abdalla and other protesters headed to another rally at Newark Liberty International Airport after the Elizabeth protest came to an end.

“It’s not going to take one protest or two protests,” said Abdalla after getting home from the airport. “We just have to keep on doing it. We can’t be silent.”

Rebecca Panico may be reached at Follow The Tower on Twitter@KeanTower. Find The Tower on Facebook.

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