President David M. Dooley addressed the University of Rhode Island community on Monday in reply to Trump’s executive order that restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries.
The order restricts refugee entrance to the United States for 120 days, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. The uncertainties that surround the order, as well as the uncertainty in future of “America’s role in the world,” are part of what Dooley’s email acknowledged.
For members of the community that have been affected by the ban, Dooley wrote that the university “will work with the law, and within the law” to defend them. It was a message that Dooley felt the community needed to hear.
“The suddenness and the potential severity of the executive order would be alarming to many members of our campus community,” Dooley said. “I think although people may have expected President Trump to take some kind of action in regard to immigration. I don’t think people expected the timing and the scope of the executive order.”
While the university has received some criticism for the message, Dooley said the administration has received far more support and appreciation. For the criticism they have received, however, some Right-leaning members of the community have complained that the message was a defiance of both the executive order and the president.
The message received some disapproval from community members on the Left as well, who do not feel that the letter is actually defending those who are affected by the order.
Danielle Dirocco, URI political science professor, described the letter overall as “lukewarm.” Wanting to see more be done on the part of the university, Dirocco has worked to create a petition that urges Dooley to take more action.
“We need protection, safety and security,” Dirocco said. “People feel threatened. I’m glad he acknowledged it. Acknowledgment is very important, but it’s just not the same as standing up.”
The petition advocates two points: that the university take a similar stance towards the executive order as the University of Michigan did, and that the university “actively condemn, and ensure swift handling of any cases of racism, intimidation, profiling, or harassment involving the student body.”
Earlier this week, the University of Michigan publicly stated that it would shield students’ immigration statuses. They did note, however, that the University of Michigan “complies with federal requirements associated with managing its international programs.”
Dooley said the university does not provided the government with any student information beyond what is required of the institution.
Apart from addressing concerns of uncertainty, the message from Dooley also stated the university has signed a letter in favor of the Deferred Childhood Action Program (DACA). The program, which began under the Obama Administration, allows children who came to the United States as undocumented immigrants before the age of 16 to apply for deferred action for deportation and legally work here. According to ra eport from College Board, about 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools in the United States each year.
As well as supporting DACA, Dooley’s message also drew a comparison between closing our doors to Muslim countries and America turning “away thousands of Jews seeking to escape Nazi Germany.”
While the executive order does not include the words “Muslim” or “Christian,” many argue that this is a religious ban that discriminates against Muslims.
Dean of the Graduate School and Professor Nasser Zawia, a Muslim-American and Yemen native, said the order itself is “hollow.” Zawia added that it excludes countries that have known terrorizes and prevents refugees from fleeing terrorism.
“It’s not necessarily for our safety that it was done,” Zawia said. “I would like someone who’s putting out an executive order or an order for increasing the safety of Americans to really take time.”
Zawia said that careful consideration and time should have gone into this, because without these he feels that this was purely political. Instead of making Americans safer, the order has alienated parts of the community.
Zawia explained that he and the people within his community are worried, especially with the shooting that happened recently in Quebec City, Canada. A local Muslim center in Rhode Island has also received threats, he said.
“We are scared,” Zawia said. “We are making plans, and asking the police department to do more patrols around our places of gathering. We are taking extra measures to be safe.”