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Gate City residents protest Trump’s immigration ban


Jeremy McKinney, an immigration attorney, discusses the ramifications of the Trump immigration ban recently placed on people from seven majority Muslim countries.  Photo by Charles Edgerton/Carolina Peacemaker Jeremy McKinney, an immigration attorney, discusses the ramifications of the Trump immigration ban recently placed on people from seven majority Muslim countries. Photo by Charles Edgerton/Carolina Peacemaker

City leaders, refugee resettlement agencies, refugee leaders, faith leaders, elected officials and concerned residents joined together on Friday, January 27 in downtown Greensboro to denounce President Donald J. Trump’s executive action on immigration and refugee resettlement.

Less than one week as president, Donald Trump has signed various executive orders, including one that bans immigration to the United States for 120 days from Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Syria. The ban indefinitely suspended the entry of all refugees from Syria. The order also caps the total number of refugees admitted into the United States during the 2017 fiscal year at 50,000, down more than half from the current level of 110,000.

Trump’s ban will impact families and people like recent immigrant Doha Al Taki, who has family in Syria, one of the banned countries. Al Taki spoke about her experience as a newcomer to Greensboro.

“It was not my choice to leave my country. Because I am Syrian, I am not a terrorist; because I am Muslim, I am not a terrorist; because I am wearing a scarf, I am not a terrorist. I am a human being and want to be part of this community,” said Al Taki, who was allowed to immigrate to the U.S. only six months ago.

On January 28, Judge Ann Donnelly, a federal judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency stay temporarily blocking part of Trump’s order. The court’s decision affects hundreds of people who had permission to be in the U.S. but were detained in airports after the executive order was signed. The ruling came after the American Civil Liberties Union and other activist groups filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqis with valid visas who were held at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Since then, demonstrators have flooded airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Houston, Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte and more in protest of the ban. At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, immigration lawyers set up a makeshift legal clinic to help travelers arriving from the banned countries.

According to officials at the Department of Homeland Security, 109 travelers were denied entry into the U.S. at the time of the federal court’s ruling. The emergency stay stopped officials from removing individuals with approved refugee applications, holders of valid visas and people from the affected countries who have been authorized to enter the U.S.

The recent immigration ban is a serious concern to many people including Laura Gaurdano, a Greensboro resident for more than 20 years and a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. President Obama’s June 2012 order has allowed her to be a documented citizen on temporary status which she must renew every two years. Although she has deferred action status, she has family and friends who do not.

“I am a taxpayer, a homeowner, a parent in this city I call home,” said Gaurdano. “It’s not just our families that are being threatened, but the American dream is being threatened.”

According to the ACLU, the executive order violates a 1965 law that bans discrimination in immigration based on national origin.

“Clearly the judge understood the possibility for irreparable harm to hundreds of immigrants and lawful visitors to this country. Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders. On week one, Donald Trump suffered his first loss in court,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero on court action against the ban.

On January 29, U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs, in a federal court in Massachusetts, also issued a temporary restraining order that said the government could not “detain or remove” any individuals who had arrived legally from the countries subjected to Trump’s order.

According to White House spokespersons, Trump’s executive order only applies to non-U.S. citizens, not anyone with U.S. citizenship, whether natural-born or naturalized. They also said that Judge Donnelly’s ruling does not undercut the president’s executive order and all stopped visas will remain stopped.

Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) applauded the federal court’s decision to place the temporary injunction.

“President Trump’s executive order to suspend the refugee program for seven predominantly Muslim countries is mean-spirited and inhumane,” said Adams. “Signed under the auspice of increased security, this ban will do nothing to improve our safety. If anything, it will only embolden those who seek to do us harm. We have a long and honored tradition of accepting refugees seeking safety after a thorough vetting process and this tradition should continue.”

Jeremy McKinney, a Greensboro immigration attorney, noted that out of an estimated 10 to 11 million undocumented persons, annual deportations range from 300,000-400,000, which shows deportation is not the answer.

“Our country cannot fix its immigration system by deporting everyone. We’re putting total power in a federal enforcement unit. We the people do not want to live in a police state,” said McKinney.

Opponents of Trump’s order reiterated the concern that it turns local law enforcement into immigration officers, when they should be focused on building positive interactions with the community.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Barakat Vaughan, noted she is third generation Syrian and was heartbroken by the president’s actions.

“Greensboro is a ‘Stranger to Neighbor City’ and we intend on staying that way,” said Vaughan, referring to FaithAction International House social program to help integrate new arrivals into the community. Vaughan also said that Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott assured her the GPD would not change their operations to focus on detaining undocumented immigrants.

“Our police officers are not ICE officers, and we are going to welcome people like we always have. The city of Greensboro needs to be a safe haven,” said Vaughan.

A fear of deportation has prompted parents to keep their children home from school, according to Alan Duncan, Guilford County School Board chairman. Duncan, a local attorney whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Scotland when he was 3, noted that Guilford County Schools (GCS) is not allowed to ask about a child’s citizenship status and that all school-age children are welcome to enroll and attend GCS, which has students from 100 different countries, speaking 100 different languages.

“I’m here on behalf of immigrants and all those who make our country great. I have heard that some parents are keeping their children away from school because they are afraid. We don’t want that to happen. Our job is to provide education to every single student we have. Please do not keep your children away,” said Duncan.

Community oriented organizations like FaithAction International House, who provide immigrants and refugees in need of help with basic necessities like food, housing, and a valid form of ID, say they will continue to serve that population.

“These orders threaten to break down the trust we’ve built. Stand up, speak out and do what you can. Inaction would put the soul of our city at stake,” David Fraccaro, FaithAction International House executive director. A community staple for over 20 years, FAIH serves thousands of immigrants and refugees a year and offers English, computer and job readiness classes.

Other executive orders signed by Trump included orders to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare), a ban on lobbying by former government staff members and authorization of the controversial construction of a U.S. southern border wall with Mexico. In addition to the border, the order instructs the government to increase immigrant detention centers, increase the number of ICE agents in communities, bans sanctuary cities and threatens to remove funding from cities that protect their immigrant residents.

He also signed several orders such as prohibiting funding for non-governmental agencies providing abortion services to women in other countries. Another institutes a hiring freeze of new federal workers and another restarts construction on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

The North Carolina NAACP and more than 200 coalition partners will take their concerns on issues of healthcare, gerrymandering, gender and racial equality, among others, to state lawmakers in downtown Raleigh for the annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) Moral March on Saturday, February 11.

“It’s our intent to stand together and amplify our voices to say to President Trump, ‘you’re wrong,’” said Rev. Cardes Brown, pastor of New Light Missionary Baptist Church and president of the NAACP Greensboro branch.