Amanda Slichter, an assistant director of Residence Life and training and education coordinator for the Pride Center, holds a sign at the rally. The sign reads, "Undocuqueer Solidarity." (Ashley Omoma/B&W Staff)

Rally of solidarity promotes international acceptance on campus in response to executive order

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Members of the Lehigh community gathered Tuesday for a rally of solidarity in response to President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

The order, enacted Jan. 27, bans citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days. Among those affected by the executive order are 55 Lehigh students who call those nations home.

“There are students who might want to go home and can’t leave the country and there are others who are worried that they won’t be able to finish their programs,” said Sarah Stanlick, from the Center for Community Engagement.

Juan Palacio Moreno, ’16, ’17G, a master’s student in the Politics of Policy program, was one of several speakers at the rally, which was organized by Lehigh’s No Lost Generation club. Standing before the crowd that had gathered near the university flagpole, he spoke about his own experience as an immigrant and refugee in the United States, as well as his interaction with refugee students at the University of Tübingen in Germany this summer.

“The current policy enacted by this administration is not based on statistics or reality, but rather racist fear and xenophobic fiction,” Palacio Moreno said.

Mohammad Pirhooshyaran of the Iranian Student Association cited the feats of Iranian scientists, including Maryam Mirzakhani, the first female Field’s medalist, to emphasize the importance of international scholarship.

“This order will kill the hope of a mother to be with a pregnant daughter, will kill the hope of a son to see his sick father for the last time, and will kill the hope of a student, like me, who aspires to pursue higher education in the U.S.,” Pirhooshyaran said.

The No Lost Generation club, the second of its kind in the country, is an organization led in coordination with the state department that aims to raise awareness about the refugee crisis. Katie Morris, ’18, the president of No Lost Generation, said Tuesday’s rally was organized in only a few days, as she and several group members started planning the event less than 24 hours after the executive order was issued. 

When choosing speakers for the rally, the group aimed to have multiple students share their stories and to diversify the event’s schedule. After the scheduled speakers, the microphone was offered to anyone in attendance who wished to speak. 

In addition to the rally, the club plans to bring a representative from the Karam Foundation to campus to speak about social media outreach and crowdfunding. The foundation helps support Syrian refugees. No Lost Generation will also coordinate a Valentine’s Day cookie delivery service to raise funds.

Morris’s club will partner with other groups on campus, including a speaking series run through the global studies department and a film series about migration that will be presented by the Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative.

The university has begun taking action as a result of the ban. In a message released on Monday, President John Simon announced that the Lehigh administration has created a committee to study the impact of the executive order on the campus community. In addition, the university has signed an open letter urging America’s current and future leaders to keep and expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Lehigh also pledged to support the BRIDGE Act, which would allow immigrant children to stay in the country for up to three years without deportation, and has contacted the Pennsylvania congressional delegation about possible changes to international student status and visa restrictions.

Morris said staying informed is the first step to making a change. She recommended students learn more by reading the news and talking to fellow students. The Office of International Affairs suggests that students contact their legislators, attend events on campus and join the International Friendship Families, a community group that provides a space for international students and scholars, if they want to help the students affected by the executive order.

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