Trump immigration and travel ban causes a week of turmoil in Yolo County
By Meghan Bobrowsky, Willa Moffatt, Isabella Ainsworth, Denna Changizi and Meseret Carver
At 1:42 p.m. Pacific Time on Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769, prohibiting immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the country for at least 90 days. The Davis community heard about the order five hours later.
Davis High senior Kasra Soltani Nia’s initial reaction was anger.
“I was really mad … I tried not to be too subjective about it and think, ‘Why are we even doing this in the first place? Obviously to prevent terrorism,’ ” said Soltani Nia, who came to the United States from Iran as a political refugee in 2006. “However, it felt like the Trump administration– if its goal is to prevent terrorism– wasn’t targeting the right people.”
“I felt pretty agitated, unwanted and, honestly, attacked” ~ Qudsiah Siddiqui
DHS alumna Qudsiah Siddiqui was lying in bed the next night when she learned about the order through a Snapchat news story.
“I was pretty shocked, not necessarily that President Trump would do this but that he would do it so soon after being in office. I felt pretty agitated, unwanted and, honestly, attacked,” Siddiqui said.
Although senior Bianca Aram, whose parents were born in Iran, was not pleased with the order, she was not too worried.
“I thought it didn’t affect us. I was like, ‘Okay, well, my mom’s a citizen. We’re citizens.’ I felt bad about it, obviously, but I was like, ‘This doesn’t affect us,’ ” Aram said.
Click here to read an annotated version of Executive Order 13769.
At the same time President Trump signed the ban in the Oval Office, a large crowd gathered at Central Park in Davis, on the steps of the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame. The museum, a symbol of Davis’s environmentally friendly and progressive identity, was the perfect backdrop for the event: a rally to show support for the local mosque in light of a recent hate crime.
On Sunday, Jan. 22, a woman had vandalized the Islamic Center of Davis, breaking windows and putting bacon around the handles of the doors. Her crime was captured on surveillance video.
In the days following the crime, the mosque raised $22,000 for repairs, well over the $9,000 they had requested. Statement of Love, a local group dedicated to spreading love in the face of hate, was leading the Jan. 27 event.
“The crowd radiated welcomeness through their smiles, cheers and kind words.” ~ Qudsiah Siddiqui
Siddiqui was surprised at how many people attended the rally, and was happy to see so many people supporting the Muslim community.
Community members, mostly non-Muslims, carried signs with messages like “Share our similarities, Celebrate our differences” and “America is more beautiful with you.” Rally participants also signed a large banner that now hangs over the fence in front of the mosque.
Siddiqui listened to chants and speeches, including ones by Mayor Robb Davis, Basim Elkarra– a Council on American-Islamic Relations representative– and local rabbi Greg Wolfe of Congregation Bet Haverim.
“The crowd radiated welcomeness through their smiles, cheers and kind words,” Siddiqui said.
The suitcases were packed. The schedule was worked out. Senior Bianca Aram’s father would drive her mother over to the San Francisco International Airport the next day, Sunday, for her 3 p.m. flight.
First, Bianca’s mother would fly to Frankfurt, Germany. Then, she would catch a connecting flight to Iran, just in time to be with Bianca’s grandmother for a traditional Iranian memorial service, 40 days after Bianca’s grandfather’s death.
Bianca’s mother, Parto Aram, was newly nervous about the situation because of Trump’s executive order.
“She was worried she couldn’t come back,” Bianca said.
Although Parto was anxious, she is an American citizen and not of Islamic faith. Neither is Bianca nor Bianca’s grandmother. In fact, Bianca has only one Muslim relative.
Meanwhile, Bianca’s grandmother was alone and her health was failing. Parto felt like she had to go, even if there would be consequences.
But her feelings changed that afternoon. A friend of Aram’s texted her, asking if she had seen the news: Iran had banned American citizens from coming into the country.
“I don’t know how this affects my future. It puts my life and my family’s life in turmoil.” ~ Bianca Aram
What followed was a flurry of worried calls: to relatives in Iran, to Parto’s brother in Germany, to the airlines, to the State Department.
“And no one knew what was going on,” Bianca said.
Finally, Parto realized that she could not go to Iran. She would not be let into the country. Bianca’s grandmother was devastated.
While Bianca was originally opposed to Trump’s presidency, she never felt that it would actually affect her. Now, though, it feels real.
“I don’t know how this affects my future,” Bianca said. “It puts my life and my family’s life in turmoil.”
Sarah Chin, a recent Davis High graduate who now attends Scripps College, rushed to the closest airport — Los Angeles International Airport — to protest once she heard about the order on Sunday afternoon.
“So we felt similar since discrimination happened in the Holocaust, we should definitely be involved in preventing and speaking out against similar situations.” ~ Sarah Chin
“My friends really wanted to go because most of us are Jewish,” Chin said. “So we felt similar since discrimination happened in the Holocaust, we should definitely be involved in preventing and speaking out against similar situations.”
Although she understood that Trump would act on his campaign promises, Chin did not think restrictions like Executive Order 13769 were possible under the United States Constitution.
This order particularly worries her because the Holocaust also “started with just discrimination against Jews.”
At the same time, similar peaceful protesters gathered at the Sacramento International Airport. Senior Tarin McMorrow flew into the airport from Los Angeles at 1 p.m., returning from a trip with her mother. Immediately, she saw hundreds of people surrounding the baggage claim.
She said the airport staff was well aware of what was happening, but made no move to disperse the protesters, who were chanting specifically about the presidency and human rights. McMorrow saw signs that read “One World,” “All are welcome here” and “Diversity is our strength.” She applauded the group for their efforts.
“It really highlighted how fortunate we all are to live in a nation that holds freedom of speech in such high regard,” McMorrow said. “It was really beautiful to see all those people come together to show such universal love for one another.”
When Becca Brown, a caseworker at World Relief Sacramento, returned to work on Monday, a heavy cloud hung over the office.
She attended an impromptu meeting with 27 staffers to discuss the specifics of what the executive order meant to families resettled by the agency, families scheduled to arrive from Iran, Afghanistan and Syria.
“Personally I was pretty upset, too, but I also knew we had several families arriving that week that we had to be ready for,” Brown said.
After the meeting, many refugees came into the office to ask about their friends back home, their own status and what the ban meant for them.
World Relief, an organization that works to resettle refugees from all over the world, has 25 offices in the United States. In response to Executive Order 13769, World Relief’s headquarters put out a press release:
“Personally I was pretty upset, too, but I also knew we had several families arriving that week that we had to be ready for.” ~ Becca Brown
“The security risks in the United States must not be confused with those in Europe where an unregulated flow of refugees both by sea and land present enormous challenges. No refugee enters the United States who is not approved by the State Department and vetted with great care by the department of Homeland Security and other US agencies.”
Kirt Lewis, office director of World Relief Sacramento, is “pretty disappointed with the executive order for a number of reasons, including unnecessarily [limiting] lifelines” for people who want to escape their war-ridden countries.
He noted that refugees from the banned countries had not taken part in any recent terrorist attacks.
Together with her co-workers, Brown called protesters at the Sacramento International Airport and called the offices of lawmakers to relay her concerns.
“It’s been pretty sad to see, and I’m trying to do my part. It’s a hard reality to accept because I know that nothing is going to change,” Brown said.
Despite her disappointment, Brown said her planned to continue to help refugees, focusing on improving the quality of life for those who have already entered the country.
Click here to read about another event that happened on Monday: California filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration.
I called my local congressman and apparently he already has opposed the ban. Who else should i call. Please help me stay informed!
— Fox Conner (@tennis_quartz) February 2, 2017
Christopher Lee, AP U.S. History teacher, was planning to discuss Progressivism on Jan. 31. However, after the Executive Order 13769 was passed, Lee decided to change his lesson plan.
He decided to incorporate Trump’s executive order into an activity, comparing it to other immigration restrictions throughout American history. The worksheet included acts dating back to 1798, such as the Alien and Sedition Acts, the 1800s with acts like Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the 1900s with acts like the Gentlemen’s Agreement, all the way up to Executive Order 13769.
Students researched the origin of each act and their impacts. They were supposed to decide from their findings whether the acts had good, bad or mixed results for Americans and the involved nations.
“Researching each immigration policy showed that history is cyclical; 2017 immigration policies appear to be reminiscent of to those of the 18th, 19th and 20th century,” said junior Kyra Lee (no relation to Christopher Lee).
Kyra Lee saw a pattern of fear based immigration policies in United States history as she completed her classwork.
“Sadly, this activity exposed that despite the moral American values that are supposed to be upheld and promoted by the leaders of our country, many national decisions are made out of fear and/or economic gain,” Kyra Lee said.
“Having diverse students in your class makes you think about those places in a different way.” ~ Pete Haws
World Civilizations teacher Pete Haws also spoke to his students about the repercussions of this order, how it would affect the United States and how it would affect them personally.
Discussing the executive order in class allowed Haws to give the students a current example of the relationship between the Middle East and the U.S.
“I mentioned the executive order because it does impact the way we are seen overseas and what foreign policy is and we are already seeing repercussions from that,” Haws said.
In Haws’s World Civilizations class, sophomores study the relationships and conflicts of different countries. According to Haws, the executive order gives insight to their study of interactions between the Middle East and United States..
Some of Haws’s students are from the seven countries on the ban list, giving him a different perspective.
“Having diverse students in your class makes you think about those places in a different way,” Haws explained.
The FBI and Davis Police Department spent five hours investigating a home on Corona Drive on Wednesday in relation to the hate crime at the Islamic Center; however, no arrests had been made by the end of the week.
“We should take it as a chance to let people know that we’re here to live peacefully with them and we have nothing against anyone.” ~ senior Ali Buzayan
Senior Ali Buzayan is not angry with the woman pictured in the video vandalizing the Islamic Center. Instead, he wants her to understand his religion, Islam.
“Maybe from her perspective, it may have seemed like the right thing to do at the time,” Buzayan said. “Obviously, she misunderstood what Islam is about. We should take it as a chance to let people know that we’re here to live peacefully with them and we have nothing against anyone.”
The Islamic Center has been holding “open houses” to answer questions and concerns community members might have about Islam.
“Our doors are open, we have nothing to hide and we really want people to know us closely,” Imam Ammar Shahin said.
According to Shanin, people who have lived here for years and always walk past the Islamic Center, without a clue what happens inside, are now coming in and asking questions because they feel more welcomed. Some even decide they want to join the faith.
“We had a person who was praying for three months with us—the morning prayers. 5 a.m.. And he is not Muslim. We only knew that when he said, ‘I want to become Muslim,'” Shanin said.
The Davis Joint Unified School District School Board met at 7 p.m. on Thursday night in an open session to answer the question: what can schools do to protect their most vulnerable students from a federal government that is targeting them and their families?
The answer came in the form of a resolution titled “We all Belong: Safe and Welcoming Schools For All.” The resolution was similar to the statewide one issued by Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of education.
Community members lined up to speak in support of the resolution, voicing their concerns about the executive order and stressing the need for the school board to take action.
Superintendent John Bowes was the primary author of the resolution. He told the audience his purpose is to protect and support the diverse population of Davis schools. In preparation for this resolution, Bowes spoke with more than 100 community members and gathered data.
“This is an incredibly inclusive document that reflects conversations with so many of our community and city leaders.” ~ Madhavi Sunder
Bowes visited the mosque after the hate crime to give his condolences. He talked to mosque members about the the actions of the current administration and how those same actions were affecting their community. Bowes, who is bilingual, also spoke with Spanish speakers because of concerns that President Trump will act on campaign promises to deport undocumented people.
The resulting resolution drew praise. “This is an incredibly inclusive document that reflects conversations with so many of our community and city leaders,” trustee Madhavi Sunder said.
The resolution states that any government agency seeking the personal information of a Davis student would need to provide advance notice before doing so.
Several speakers urged the board to use stronger and less ambiguous language.
Local immigration attorney Ann Block, along with other community members, expressed her concerns about the vagueness of the phrase “advance notice.”
“A stronger resolution is necessary right now to counter the aggressive and sometimes unconstitutional actions that are being taken by the [Trump] administration, ” Block said.
Imam Ammar Shahin spoke to the board, thanking them for this resolution and stressing the importance of Muslim students feeling safe at school.
After hearing the speakers, board members discussed changes that could strengthen the document.
Though School Board President Barbara Archer agreed that the document still needed some refinement, she believed that “the values and intent about this document are where we want it to be,” and stressed the urgency to “get this on the books.”
They agreed to compromise by passing the resolution unanimously that night, but forming a subcommittee to review the resolution and make corrections as necessary, deeming it a “living document.”
Holmes Junior High seventh grader Summer Ali was in attendance with her mom; both are members of the Islamic Center. Ali appreciated that the School Board passed the resolution, and said she feels safe and protected in Davis schools.
“When President Trump got elected, and he passed all those things, my friends were like ‘oh, are you okay?’” Ali said. Her friends supported her, even captioning Instagram posts with “We love Muslims.”
The turquoise Islamic Center of Davis was packed for Friday prayers. Cars crowded the parking lot and neighboring streets, forcing several attendees to park at the nearby Rite Aid.
Attendees occupied themselves with small talk while waiting for the service to start. Fridays are the busiest days of the week for the mosque, which holds several prayers throughout the day.
Katelyn Costs, a sophomore at UC Davis, is a Caucasian woman, born and raised Catholic, but officially converted to Islam over a year ago.
“My best friend in high school was Muslim, and I used to go over to her house all the time so I had to start learning things,” Costs said. “And I started to just really, really like it, and then I started picking it up and I decided to convert.”
The crowd at the mosque was a mix: mostly middle-easterners and African Americans but with a few whites and a few Hispanics.
As a Muslim herself, Costs is deeply concerned about Trump’s executive order. She has two friends who are currently unable to enter the country. Both have student visas to attend schools in the United States.
“It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not efficient,” Costs said, explaining that there has not been a terrorist attack from someone from one of those countries in multiple decades.
this sign my parents made got stolen. it wasn’t meant to be political they just wanted to keep things around town positive 🙄 pic.twitter.com/azeM9VAugd
— David (@davigree) January 31, 2017
Costs and others lamented the fact that many Americans misunderstand and fear Islam.
“Islamophobia … is the bigotry and violence that somebody faces, but it also is state policy that presumes Muslims are suspect and acts upon that assumption which makes the bigotry and violence justified,” Costs said.
“It’s a political strategy to exploit poor white voters … to gain more power within a nation.” ~ Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez, a junior at UC Davis and a Muslim, hopes that others can learn what he considers to be the truth behind Trump’s motives. As a political science and history major, he has been studying and trying to understand the strategy behind the executive order.
“The Muslim ban is obviously an anti-Islamic message because… all the countries that are banned pretty much have zero terrorist attacks in America,” Rodriguez said.
According to Rodriguez, movements like Islamophobia have been repeated throughout history.
“It’s a political strategy to exploit poor white voters… to gain more power within a nation,” Rodriguez said.
He mentioned that the African American slaves and indentured servants were once in the same boat, trying to fight oppression together. Then, the white elite of the United States turned the indentured white servants against the slaves, in what Rodriguez says was a way to control them. Rodriguez believes that current Islamophobia is just another way to misdirect the anger and frustration of the white working class.
While the seven countries on the list may be associated with funding terrorism, the core terrorist groups rise from countries that are not on the list. Osama Bin Laden, one of the most notoriously known terrorists, was from Saudi Arabia, a country not named on Trump’s list.
Similarly, countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not on the ban list but are home to people who have killed thousands of Americans. So why are these countries not on the list?
Rodriguez believes it comes down to business ties.
According to a report done by the Washington Post, Trump registered eight companies in Saudi Arabia during his presidential campaign, all appearing to be tied to hotel interests.
“Of course we’re not going to ban people from Saudi Arabia, because then they’re going to stop doing business for us,” Rodriguez said. “But the countries where we don’t have money invested are the countries we’re going to ban to send an anti-Islamic message.”