Want to know what an executive order, lo mein, and drag queens have in common?

In light of the recent immigration ban, I sought to educate myself not only about the specifics of the ban, but what I personally thought about it. That’s what being in college is all about, right? Throughout one week, I was exposed to a variety of experiences that enlightened me to the diversity of thoughts, ideas, and actions my campus posed concerning the ban. By attending these events and becoming more aware, I was able to see things through a variety of perspectives and come to terms with my own thoughts on the situation. The following article is the week in the life of a college kid after the immigration ban was signed. Here we go.

On January 27, 2017, newly inaugurated president Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The ban bars people from these seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. Not only does the ban stop people from these seven countries from coming over, but it also puts a halt on allowing the passage of any refugees into the country for 120 days and the Syrian refugee program has been suspended indefinitely. Along with travelers and refugees, dual-citizenship holders have also been put at risk because they have now been temporarily banned from entering the country for these 90 days.

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In signing the order, Trump and company inflicted mass confusion on a national scale. Airport employees that following Saturday didn’t have the proper knowledge or training to effectively deal with the consequences of the ban. At airports around the country, many people —  including valid visa holders, approved refugees, non-U.S. dual citizens, and U.S. legal residents — were barred from planes because of the order. People arriving in the U.S. from the banned countries were either temporarily detained at the airport or deported back to their own countries based on the documentation they presented upon arrival in the U.S.

Judges on both coasts initially pressed pause on the ban for people with valid visas, ordering immigration officials to release detained people and stop deportations, and allowing lawful permanent residents to enter the country. Others without such judicial power took to protesting at the airports, carrying their colorful handmade signs berating the current administration’s decision. The protests were peaceful, mainly with people rallying outside of airports to show their support and sympathy for those detained inside.

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Sunday

I learned about the executive order and what it entailed the Sunday night following its issuance while eating Chinese takeout in my college dorm. As one of my best friends briefed me on the national debacle we found ourselves in, I felt less inclined to continue enjoying the lo mein that minutes previously had seemed so enticing. There were serious matters to be discussed, and I couldn’t continue enjoying my dinner in good conscience until they had been addressed.

After giving me the lowdown of what the executive order was, my friend went on to tell me that 63 students and three faculty members could be affected by the ban and not allowed to continue on with our university.

Lo mein be damned, she had my full attention.

Sixty-six people seeking the opportunity to learn and educate were possibly going to be stripped of those rights — even if they presumably retained the proper identification and status to legally be an international student or faculty member — because of an ill-advised decision made by our president. My campus community was being disrupted from Washington by a man who didn’t seek the administrative, legal, or educated advice of those appointed to give him just that. It seemed the real education that needed to be done was in the Oval Office.

“What are we going to do?” I asked, I challenged, I demanded. This was something that had to addressed, and I would be damned if I wasn’t a proponent in addressing it.

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The friend I was speaking with, a co-president of an on-campus intersectional feminist group, told me they would be discussing the ban at their meeting the upcoming Tuesday night. “What are you doing that night?” she asked.

I could see the glint in her eye, the one that dared me to say I was doing anything besides attending that meeting. “As if you don’t know,” was all I managed to reply.

Tuesday, however, would not be where the immigration ban debate ended for me. While I didn’t know it then, there would be many discussions, disputes, and disagreements I would have to endure throughout the week in regards to the executive order that was dividing our country.

TUESDAY

At 9:30 am, my classes began for the day. The first one was a leadership class where we focus on how to become inclusive leaders through being knowledgeable, ethical, and caring. It is a fun and challenging class, where you have to be patient in listening and speaking.

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We focus on taboo topics, so, of course, our teacher throws the syllabus plans out the window for the day, tells us to get in our groups, and asks us, “What do you think about the immigration ban?” (This question was going to haunt me throughout the week).

I informed my discussion group of the 66 people on campus the ban could affect and saw wide eyes turn my way in incredulity. “Wow,” one of the group members responded. “I had no idea people on campus were being affected.” We went on to talk about other aspects of the ban. One member of our group posed interesting questions. “What if it weren’t Trump doing this? What if a leader of any other nation besides the U.S. enacted an immigration ban? Would we, or the world for that matter, be reacting this way?”

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Asking them to explain further, they went on to say as a nation, the U.S. has always been one of the forefront forces in establishing a global community. We have offered assistance, fought wars, and engaged with other countries so much so that we have left parts of our Western culture behind that impacted their own culture. While these maneuvers have been both good and bad, either way they are done and have made irrevocable change on an international scale. But, the member asked, does that have to continue to be the country’s legacy?

It was an interesting question that we did not get to respond to because our teacher announced it was time to circle up and continue our conversations as a class. I held onto it, though, and made a mental note to answer it later.

Circling up as a class, I already felt the atmosphere shift. It was one thing to discuss the ban in small groups. It was another to be surrounded by 30 other people with thoughts, feelings, and ideas that you didn’t necessarily want to hear. However, in attempting to become an inclusive leader, it was important to listen to everyone, regardless of disagreement. I tried to remember this as the conversation began.

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Almost continuing in the theme our group had lightly touched on, one member of the class brought to the group’s attention that we should look at it through Trump’s point of view. At first, we looked nervously around at each other until the student explained. “Inclusion doesn’t just extend to the people affected by the immigration ban,” they said. “It has to be all-encompassing. All-encompassing includes Trump.”

In saying this, the conversation took a whole new turn none of us were expecting. Personally, I hadn’t thought about the issue through Trump’s eyes. To me, it seemed counterintuitive considering the vast number of people affected, but being an inclusive leader doesn’t mean I get to pick and choose whose opinions I listen to.

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Another student agreed with the first. “I don’t understand why everyone is acting so surprised,” they began. “Trump is acting on his campaign promises. Maybe it is sooner than everyone expected, but he is still doing what he said he was going to do.”

Another student said that while they didn’t wholeheartedly agree with Trump, to them there could be benefits to enacting the ban: “As a nation, there are marginalized groups, impoverished people, and other issues we need to address. In having our government seek to help others globally, we risk ignoring the people at our own front door who need assistance. Maybe it is time to stop looking at the horizon and start looking at the steps it is going to take to get there.”

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That opened a can of worms I didn’t know existed until that moment. People began agreeing, saying as a nation it would be beneficial to “stay in our lane” and solve the problems running rampant and unchecked through our streets. Those people were combatted with ethical concerns, such as who would help people in other countries if the U.S. didn’t step in. Would they find help? Other people stated that if we do close off our borders, then we need to take out the entirety of our influence and culture in other nations. “If we are going to help ourselves, then we only need to focus on ourselves,” one person said. “If we decide to shut ourselves off from the world, then we need to do so with the knowledge that we are becoming a stronger resource for the global community to tap into eventually.”

Thoughts, concerns, and more dialogue perpetuated the hour-and-fifteen-minute class. By the end of it, some people left with more knowledge than they had arrived with, others left unhappy with the turn of the conversation, and still there were some who were just glad the issue was talked about. After hearing a different perspective on the matter entirely, I left with questions about what inclusion means to me and how I want to ensure it in my future opportunities in leadership.

10 Hours Later

One class, two assignments, and four hours of work later, I was sitting in on my second meeting with the intersectional feminist group my two best friends run. As they took the stage, I couldn’t help but be proud of the two evolving women I saw before me. Not only were they proposing change tonight but they were taking actionable steps towards making it happen.

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In taking actionable steps, they brought attention to the rally that would be happening the following night in light of the immigration ban. That was news to me and other members in attendance. The on-campus Muslim Student Association asked the group to speak at the rally Wednesday night, which they agreed to, and the leaders of the group went on to brief all of us on what that would entail. We were asked to make signs, to march, to participate in order to show this association, along with the 66 and other affected people, the support they needed in overcoming the state of the nation we found ourselves in. It would be a night of unity, one everyone was invited to be a part of.

Upon learning of the rally, I remembered my leadership class and how inclusion here was being defined completely differently than it had been ten hours earlier. Which side was the right one? Was there one side that was completely right? Would there ever be?

Wednesday

On Wednesday, my college’s daily newspaper reignited the conversation surrounding the immigration ban. There was about a graduate student from my university who was doing research in Iran and wouldn’t be able to come back to the U.S. to attend the classes they had already enrolled in for the spring semester. The student had to drop their classes, sit on the visa that had taken them five months to attain, and hope the ban wouldn’t derail the totality of the education they had worked so hard to earn. In the article, the grad student said the research being done was a timely source of information that needed tending to, but, because of the ban, they feared it wouldn’t receive the proper attention. They went on to say the research was being done in the name of the United States and for the benefit of the country. If our nation couldn’t accept it because of the ban, then they may share it with more receptive audiences to make sure the research doesn’t go to waste.

Again, the ban was hitting close to home. While the graduate student might be in Iran, they had begun their journey at my university, had sought and found higher education here, and went forth to use that education to positively impact the world. And now they were being penalized because of the region of the world they found themselves in. As I thought about how the article played in with my leadership class and the feminist group meeting the previous day, I couldn’t help but wonder what our world had come to. When had geography become the enemy? When did conversation stop and arguments become the only observable outcome to interactions?

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The article acted as another stimulus to getting me to finalize my thoughts surrounding the immigration ban. There was only one other event in my calendar that week I planned on attending, and, between the class, meeting, and article, it was the last place I expected the immigration ban to be brought up.

Friday

I went to a drag show that Friday night. Lo and behold, the immigration ban came up again.

It may not have been a theme throughout the show, but at one point the MC of the event took some time to address the ban. She asked the audience, group by group, what sexual orientations we all were. “Where are my gays at? My lesbians? How about my bisexuals? Are there any transgenders in attendance tonight? And finally: where are my straight people at?”

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As we cheered for our respective sexual orientations, the MC let the cheers die down before she addressed us again: “Now, I want everyone here to know that whether you are gay, lesbian, straight, or another sexual orientation, we are all here together. The people in this audience tonight are united because they are willing to expose themselves to something different and sit alongside each other as different people part of the same whole. As a transgender woman, I recognize that the mic is not mine to hold to tell an immigrant’s story, a black person’s story, or anyone else’s story. Telling those stories isn’t my responsibility; it is, however, my responsibility to help those stories, and the people behind them, be recognized. Because if you go against a transgender person, a Muslim person, a black person, or any other person, you are going against me. And that is sure as hell not okay.”

To emphasize her point, the MC asked us one final question. “Where are my people at?”

As an audience, we cheered as one.

Saturday and Beyond

When I first heard about the immigration ban over lo mein noodles on that fateful Sunday night, I knew I had to write about it.

In saying that, let me say: I am not an expert. I am not politically savvy, wise in the ways of our fine republic, or a person who holds enough knowledge to have true merit when it comes to issues of national pertinence. These are the thoughts of a college student trying to make sense of the ever-changing world around her.

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Initially, I wrote this article to give a voice to what the immigration ban looks like on a college campus. Now, though, I see that I can write this article because I have the privilege to. I have the privilege of having a voice where other people’s have been silenced. I have the privilege of claiming a nationality that allows me to use that voice to the fullest of its potential, to go forth and be heard without fear of reprisal. In having those privileges at my disposal, I could not call myself a believer in equality, a pursuer of inclusion, or a decent human being if I did not address the immigration ban with the privilege at my disposal.

I don’t agree with the ban. I don’t agree that 66 people in my community are in jeopardy of deportation because of where they originate. In life, it isn’t about where you began, but more about the journey you take in trying to get to where you want to go. Now, because of the immigration ban, 66 people at my university are at risk of not being able to continue on in their journeys. That doesn’t sit right with me.

While President Trump and his administration may believe this is the best way to ensure domestic tranquility, I cannot help but disagree. We find ourselves in difficult times, yes, but we must not worsen those difficulties by ostracizing people who have the potential to help us out of these times: the people who are contributing research to our country, the people who are actively pursuing higher education, the people who are doing the educating.

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The U.S. was a nation founded on the survival, sacrifice, and strength of immigrants. A few hundred years ago, we as a populace bonded over our varied origins, came together, and stopped oppression where it was not wanted. While our country’s history is marred with further prejudice and hostility, it does not mean we have to sit idly by and allow it to exist. We must first start asking people what they think of the social issues at hand, then ask them how they would go about solving the issues.

But it is not good enough to stop there. There must be action to create change, development to instate progress, collaboration to establish equality. It is of the utmost importance that we as a nation come together to enact governance beneficial to the pursuits of the country and its people. Disagreement should not act as the barrier between progress and complacency.

As a daughter, a sister, a student, and a fellow human being, I urge you to open your eyes and look around you. Take in the people and the vitality of the humanity permeating in the recycled air we share with one another. Look at the person, not the social identity. Look at them for who they are, how they act, what they offer to the community. We exist together as humans: as mothers, husbands, neighbors, co-workers, and a plethora of other identities. In banning immigration from seven countries and deporting people from U.S. soil, we are limiting our capacity to not judge humans, but judge features. Features — like race — that indicate nothing about a person but where they descended from. People are many things and ultimately limiting them by where they come from, regardless of where they are now, is wrong. The U.S. was founded on the phrase, “Of the people, by the people, for the people.”

So, I will leave you with one final question: Where are my people?

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