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ND community members demonstrate in South Bend against Trump executive order

| Monday, January 30, 2017

Hundreds of South Bend community members — including Notre Dame students, faculty and staff — attended a demonstration Sunday outside the Morris Performing Arts Center, in solidarity with immigrants and refugees affected by President Donald Trump’s recent executive order temporarily banning the entry of nationals of several Muslim-majority countries.

The demonstration was organized by a group of Notre Dame faculty and staff, including Catherine Osborne, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. Osborne said after protests against the executive order sprung up around the country Friday and Saturday, she kept an eye out for a demonstration in South Bend. When none emerged, she and associate professor of American studies Jason Ruiz decided to start one.

“We figured we would just see what we got, and we knew there would be a lot of people who would want to do something practical because this is just such an emotional situation,” she said. 

The executive order, which Trump issued Friday, stopped visas from being issued to nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and to refugees of Syria indefinitely. It also banned all refugee entries for 120 days, required a review of visa adjudication processes and provided that refugees can be admitted on a case-by-case basis, especially if they are religious minorities.

On Saturday, a judge ruled that refugees on their way to the U.S. when the order was issued could not be sent back to their home countries. Meanwhile, the order sparked protests across the country, including in South Bend.

“It was pretty ad hoc and last minute, and we’re sure that there were a lot of people who would have liked to be here who didn’t hear about it in time, but this is an emergency situation,” Osborne said. 

The crowd gathered at 3:30 p.m. and chanted phrases like, “No ban, no wall.” Among the signs were “Immigrants are welcome here,” “No human is illegal” and “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” in three languages.

Among the demonstrators was 16-year-old Adams High School student Mahalha Chalulu and his parents. Chalulu said his family, who emigrated from Malawi, was there because the executive order was unfair. He said the turnout encouraged him.

“I like the turnout, and it’s such a fun and empowering environment to walk with other people who agree with you and feel the same way,” he said. 

Sonja Mapes, a professor of mathematics at Notre Dame, came with her husband Gabor and daughter Nora, who made up the chant, “People are good.” Mapes said she attended in solidarity with colleagues and students who are from the countries Trump named in the order.

“This is just disgraceful,” she said. “These are people who have oftentimes been educated and trained in the United States. There’s been U.S. money invested in educating and training these people and now we’re going to block them from our country coming in — I mean it’s just the stupidest thing ever. It’s just, it’s not right. And these people are having their lives upended because of this, they can’t accept job offers or they have accepted them and then they don’t know what to do because they don’t know if they’re going to actually be able to come.”

Lukas Bobak, a Notre Dame sophomore, said the issue was close to him because his parents had emigrated from Poland during the communist era.

“It’s not just refugees, it’s the idea of a mother, a father and a child who are forced to live in a place that is kind of messed up because of us, too,” he said. “It’s not just that the area has its own problems, the problems are amplified by what we do there, and it’s our responsibility especially being America the land of the free if we want to call it that and the land of immigrants that we can’t just close off how we’re doing. Especially with so many people so strongly opposed to it.”

Hythem Sidky, a Ph.D. student in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering, said the protest demonstrated American values.

“I hope it will change the hearts and minds of people who are maybe closed-minded and show them that we’re all human beings, and it doesn’t matter where you’re born, where you grow up, what language you speak, what color your skin is, what religion you follow, or what your sexual preferences are — that we’re all human beings, and we all deserve the same rights,” Sidky said. Ruiz said the South Bend protest echoes the national movement against the executive order and that he was happy with Notre Dame’s recent official response to the ban.

“I don’t speak for any group here, [but] I was personally very heartened that [University President] Fr. John Jenkins this morning made a public statement about ND’s stance that the President needs to rescind this order,” Ruiz said. “Notre Dame has a vested interest here. We benefit from international students, including students from the seven countries named by President Trump, so we would be foolish not to stand up against it.”

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About Emily McConville

Emily McConville is a news writer and photographer for the Observer. She is a senior studying history and Italian with a minor in journalism. She is from Louisville, KY and lives off-campus.

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