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Observer Editorial: Rescind this order

| Friday, February 3, 2017

One week ago today, U.S. and international airports were thrown into chaos as thousands of people attempting to enter the country were prevented from boarding their flights or detained — many for multiple hours — as soon as they stepped off their planes onto American soil.

Within hours, protesters around the U.S. converged at the nation’s airports to express their support for the detainees — all of whom were nationals of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen or Libya. The reason behind the sudden detention: an executive order, signed by President Donald Trump during his first week in office. The order bars entry into the U.S. for nationals from the above countries for 90 days, suspends the entry of refugees for 120 days and suspends entry for refugees from Syria indefinitely.

The order immediately made waves on the international stage. Leaders around the world had mixed reactions: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault accused the order of being discriminatory, and Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement calling the order “a great gift to extremists and their supporters,” while the Dutch politician Geert Wilders tweeted, “Well done @POTUS it’s the only way to stay safe + free.”

Similarly, on the domestic front, the reactions of political leaders have spanned a wide spectrum, and the story generated a massive amount of attention in the news and on social media as high-level business executives like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook issued statements against the order.

But the order also has a more personal side — one that resonates here in South Bend. At Notre Dame alone, there are about 30 students from those seven countries — students who no longer have the freedom to travel home to see loved ones or to spend their breaks traveling abroad. Instead, they now face the possibility that they will not be readmitted to the United States if they leave the country.

Notre Dame International (NDI) issued a statement Saturday to those affected by the order, expressing support for the students and calling them “critical members of our Notre Dame and American community.”

We as an editorial board wholeheartedly agree with NDI. These students are indeed critical members of our community. As their intellect, resilience and perseverance prove, they represent the very height of American values. We stand with these students who are part of a larger community being unfairly singled out for factors beyond their control. They are people who, in many cases, have already fought through so many obstacles to study at Notre Dame, and who are now under scrutiny from a government and a populace that owe their very existence to the hard work of immigrants.

To the 30 students affected: We as a country, we as a collegiate community and we as the Notre Dame family would not be where we are today without you, and we will not concede to a tomorrow without you.

Our editorial board objects to the order for several reasons. First, the order contradicts fundamental American values, such as welcoming diversity and recognizing all humans as being created equal — equally entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It ignores our nation’s history — a nation that was built on the industry of immigrants — and betrays the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Second, the order is particularly detrimental to academia, which depends upon free and global exchange of ideas for its survival. Academia flourishes when people from different backgrounds and perspectives come together to bring their combined brainpower to the table. Exchange programs, international conferences and research fellowships to travel abroad are all major facets of academic life, and ones which are now being challenged by this executive order. At Notre Dame alone, two visiting professors scheduled to arrive next week will most likely be prevented from entering the United States as a direct result of the order. Are these the “bad dudes” President Trump was attempting to exclude?

Finally, the order personally affects many hardworking people who have fought to come to this country and who now find themselves shut out from the land of opportunity — or, conversely, shut in, fearing that if they leave, they may not be able to return.

In his response to last Friday’s events, University President Fr. John Jenkins condemned the order, calling it “sweeping, indiscriminate and abrupt.” He went on to say the order threatens American principles as well as academic ones, stating the order “will over time diminish the scope and strength of the educational and research efforts of American universities, … and, above all, it will demean our nation, whose true greatness has been its guiding ideals of fairness, welcome to immigrants, compassion for refugees, respect for religious faith and the courageous refusal to compromise its principles in the face of threats.”

We as an editorial board could not agree more. This order threatens our nation’s founding principles, as well as our identity as a Notre Dame family and as a nation. It threatens the institutions this nation was built upon, as well as the people who work to maintain them. It threatens people we know personally — people who we know from classes, dorms, interhall sports and other aspects of campus life.

For the concluding remark to his response, Jenkins directed his words at President Trump, saying, “We respectfully urge the president to rescind this order.”

We now repeat his sentiment: We urge the president to rescind this order.

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