Thousands gathered in Denver's Civic Center Park for the Protect Our Muslim Neighbors rally on Saturday Feb. 4, 2017. (Sarah Farley/CU Independent)

CU Boulder immigrants and refugees denounce Trump travel ban, share experiences

Immigrants in the CU community from across the globe have felt differing effects of President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, but one sentiment remains the same among every immigrant interviewed: opposition to the ban.

Announced in late January, the ban prohibits the arrival of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, halts the arrival of refugees from all countries for 120 days and indefinitely forbids the arrival of refugees from Syria. There is currently a federal court-ordered hold on the ban, but its announcement continues to cause immigrants to question their place in the United States.

For many, the ban was a shock, and caused even those not directly affected by it to wonder if they were truly accepted in the country. This is especially true for one Boulder-area Iranian woman who wishes to remain anonymous.

“We’ve been law-abiding people paying our taxes, we have never felt scared in this country, but lately we are disappointed about the fairness of this decision,” she said.

The Iranian woman said that she and her husband immigrated from Iran to the U.S. in the 1990s to obtain advanced degrees, and then to work in the medical technology industry. They decided to stay in the country because they could contribute more to their field in the U.S. They are now citizens with two children who were born in the country, and run their own medical device technology business.

The Iranian woman said she thinks the ban is racist, and resents its portrayal of Muslims and Middle Easterners.

“That the president keeps saying ‘Muslim terrorist’ is a very hateful thing,” she said. “Muslims are not terrorists — personally, I’m not a Muslim; I’m a Buddhist. But putting terrorism next to Muslims, next to Iranians — it’s not fair.”

The woman said she understands criticism of the Iranian government, which she described as repressive. However, she said applying the same criticism to ordinary Iranians is unfair. She also said she fears the effects of poor U.S.-Iranian diplomatic relations.

“I have family in Iran — I was hoping to go see my grandmother, my brothers,” she said. “I was hoping to travel, and now I don’t know what to do.”

To Abdulsalam Hindawi, separation from family is the worst part of being a refugee. Hindawi defected from the Syrian Army in 2012 and came to the U.S. to study geography at CU Boulder after some time living in Turkey. He is currently an asylum seeker, and said that when his degree is finished, he hopes to stay in the U.S. and become a professor or work with a refugee aid organization.

Today, his family is scattered across several countries. His sister lives in Istanbul, Turkey, and one of his brothers lives in Germany. After the death of his father several weeks ago, his mother is alone in Syria.

“No one can be next to her right now,” Hindawi said.

He hopes to be able to bring her to the U.S. if he obtains permanent settlement, but for the present they remain apart.

Hindawi said he enjoys being in America despite the ban, and that so far he has not been personally affected by it. He expressed concern that Trump would target immigrants from Mexico and South America, however, and is especially concerned for DACA students.

If he was able to speak to Trump, Hindawi said he would ask him to to be more merciful and to use his power sparingly and intentionally, not impulsively.

“Who are we hurting?” Bunga Manurung thought when she heard about the ban.

Indonesian refugees, her Christian family sought asylum in the U.S. to escape religious persecution in Muslim-majority Indonesia. They came to the U.S. in 2003 and after 10 long years obtained asylum in 2013. They now have their green cards, which means Marunga and her siblings can attend college without having to pay out-of-state tuition.

The travel ban reminds Manurung, who is a CU student, of the way her refugee community was treated under the Bush administration, when many Indonesian refugees were deported under misleading circumstances. She said it paints an inaccurate portrayal of immigrants as a danger to the country, and is inhumane in that it sends people back to countries where they will often face persecution and danger.

“I’m not welcome in Indonesia, and I’m not welcome in the United States, so where am I welcome?” Manurung said. “[The refugees] are not welcome in their own country and they’re not welcome in the United States, so where are they welcomed at?”

South Sudanese refugee Aldo Aldo had similar sentiments about the ban. “You can’t just ban a whole group, especially refugees who are fleeing war-torn nations and trying to help their kids have a better life, and say they’re terrorists,” he said.

Aldo and his family came to the U.S. after living in a refugee camp in Uganda. The resettlement process began in 2004 and they were allowed into the country in 2015. Aldo is now a student at CU.

The world’s youngest country, South Sudan only gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Because of this, all of Aldo and his family’s documents — even their green cards — say they are from Sudan, one of the countries on the list. Aldo said this is extremely restricting for people attempting to travel or to flee the country.

“We have a lot of refugees that are trying to leave Sudan, and they aren’t getting their changes because of the travel ban,” he said.

Many of the immigrants question Trump’s motive for the ban. Hindawi pointed to his distrust of former president Barack Obama as the answer. “I would say Trump doesn’t trust the immigration stuff that went on under Obama, and maybe in the back of his mind, Trump still thinks Obama was a secret Muslim who was conspiring against the U.S.,” he said.

Aldo fears Trump is waiting for a terrorist attack from one of the named countries to use as justification for the ban.

“If he decides to ban these countries for 90 days and then a terrorist attack from one of these nations happens in the U.S., that means he might bans these nations forever,” Aldo said. “He’s waiting for that right moment to go ‘you see, these people are dangerous, and therefore we should not allow them in at all.’”

Manurung and the Iranian woman both expressed frustration at the rhetoric that immigrants steal jobs. Manurung said her mother owns her own business, as does the Iranian woman. The woman said she has heard talk of other Iranian immigrants who are considering moving their businesses to Canada or other countries outside the U.S. because of the ban.

Despite their fears and disappointments, the immigrants agreed that CU was generally an accepting community for refugees. Hindawi said that since the ban, many colleagues and friends have reached out to him, expressing their support.

“Initiatives like this make you feel really among people that love you,” Hindawi said.

Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Carina Julig at carina.julig@colorado.edu.

About Carina Julig

Carina Julig is a SoCal native in her first year at CU. She is majoring in journalism and political science, and minoring in space. She is a copy editor and news writer for the CU Independent with a focus on politics, religion, and LGBT issues.

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