Laurier’s Response to Donald Trump’s Travel ban

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On Jan. 27, President Trump issued an executive order restricting travel into the United States for individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. Ensuing the announcement, Universities Canada released a statement in response to the U.S. executive order to reiterate their commitment to providing communities that are diverse and inclusive to all:

“Canada’s universities continue to welcome students, faculty and staff from around the world, including those seeking refuge from violence and hardship. They strengthen Canada’s university communities, bringing new knowledge, talent and skills to higher education, research and innovation —to the benefit of all Canadians.”

The statement acknowledged that the ban affects Canadian campuses and has a profound impact on communities and university students.

In response, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Diversity and Equity Office held a healing session for any faculty, staff and students who needed the support.  Laura Mae Lindo, director of the Diversity and Equity office, explained that she had received indication from many in the Laurier community that it would be beneficial to have a space to talk, reflect and organize after Donald Trump was elected as President.

The initial healing space, held on both Waterloo and Brantford Campuses, saw a turnout of approximately 60 individuals. After the travel ban was announced, the Diversity and Equity office planned to hold another healing session on Jan. 30 now that the fears of many at Laurier were becoming a reality.

“I think that part of what was necessary was a space to navigate what it feels like when what people have thought in theory is happening in practice. The real fears are actually on the ground,” Lindo said.

The healing session, along with various other events held at Laurier in relation to the travel ban, gave those in the community an opportunity to process and cope with the reality of what is happening while being able to reflect through honest dialogue and hear the thoughts of those who were impacted.

“Given the number of people who came to the healing space, it’s urgently needed. We’re living through a moment where if we choose to sit back, it will be very clear how history will tell the story of anti-Muslim sentiment on Canadian soil. It’s not a theory, it’s the truth in the way that things have been happening,” Lindo said.

Given that the travel ban was issued in the U.S., the order very much affects Canadians. Lindo explained that any ban or discussion that involves where an individual can or cannot go infringes upon the rights of those people, which in this case is Muslim colleagues, friends and family.

“There’s been a lot of questions about how it is relevant to us. The reality is that our borders are fake lines that we’ve drawn.”

From an academic standpoint, Lindo pointed out that the possibility of scholars from around the world attending Laurier becomes troubled. As well, current students face a moral dilemma in regards to entering the U.S.

“There’s questions that come into play … about whether or not it’s perpetuating anti-Muslim sentiment to cross the border or whether it’s challenging and resisting anti-Muslim sentiment to cross the border and exchange knowledge,” Lindo said.

Despite the grappling negativity and harm that the travel ban has brought forth, many positive conversations have begun as a result. However, Lindo believes that flipping the situation into a positive should remain theoretical.

“[T]he psychological and social harm and the potential physical harm of what is being discussed and fought for has to be precedent,” she said. “I can’t say that we came together so it’s good. I can say that it’s horrible and that I have hope in humanity because we came together anyways, despite the negativity, despite the Islamophobia and despite anti-Muslim sentiment,” Lindo said.

A federal judge in Seattle responded to the executive order and suspended the order on Feb. 3. Though the issued order is now on hold, the fight for the travel ban to be reinstated is far from finished, as Trump believes the order provides “national security.” Lindo explained that although the order is on hold, it is crucial to proceed with caution.

“I want us to be celebrating with caution. Celebrating with a critical eye to what it is that’s actually happening, a critical ear to what we’re hearing and with real intentionality that we will not stand for that; not in the world and certainly not at home or in our institution.”

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