City officials, students lead protest against immigration ban


Maytham al-Zayer/The Daily Northwestern

Students, faculty, staff and Evanston residents gather at Technological Institute to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order barring citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl addressed protesters and urged them to continue to resist Trump’s executive order.

Jonah Dylan and Catherine Kim

More than 200 Northwestern community members and Evanston residents, including Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, protested Thursday on campus as part of a nationwide movement against recent immigration actions by President Donald Trump, which temporarily barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

The event, organized by Academics United and co-sponsored by 21 student organizations, was held in response to the executive order, which barred citizens of Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Somalia from entering country for 90 days, prevented refugees from entering for 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely. On Thursday, a federal appeals court ruled Trump’s travel ban will remain blocked.

In addition to marching and protesting on campus, organizers presented a list of demands to the Northwestern administration urging more support for students affected by the executive order.

Amir Maghsoodi, a third-year applied physics graduate student who holds both Iranian and American citizenship, helped organize the protest. He told The Daily the goal of the event was to show that the community is united in support of affected students.

“We don’t stand for injustice,” he said. “We don’t stand for racism, discrimination. We know what our ideals are. We know what our values are as Americans, as Northwestern students.”

The protest started at The Rock, where protesters repeated chats such as, “No hate. No fear. Immigrants are welcome here.” After several students and faculty addressed the crowd, decrying the executive order, organizers led a march up Sheridan Road to the front of Technological Institute.

At Tech, a series of speakers, including Tisdahl, four of the five current Evanston mayoral candidates and Ed Yohnka, American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois director of communications and public policy, addressed the crowd.

“It’s so critical as a beginning point to engage people, to help them understand what the facts are and to help them understand what’s at stake,” Yohnka said.

Ald. Mark Tendam (6th), Gary Gaspard, Steve Hagerty and Jeff Smith were present at the demonstration.

Ruth Martin Curry, one of the organizers and a sixth-year comparative literature graduate student, told The Daily that the event was necessary because the travel ban restricted academic freedom, which should be protected by the institution.

By barring students’ mobility, the government is threatening their freedom to education and free thought, she said.

“This is us standing up as academics and members of the academic community to stand with our colleagues directly affected by the ban but also to stand for the core values of higher education,” she said.

Amanda Kleintop, president of the Graduate Leadership and Advocacy Council, which co-sponsored the event, directed a list of demands at NU administration, urging more accessible legal assistance. Kleintop said the University should hold town hall meetings and create programs to raise awareness about challenges that have arisen for students affected by the executive order.

“These procedures should be transparent, consistent and designed in collaboration with affected students like the Iranian Students Association,” she said.

The Iranian Students Association, which is mostly made up of Iranian graduate students, was one of the groups co-sponsoring the protest.

Along with a message to the University, the speakers also urged students to help their peers who are affected by the order.

Tisdahl said Evanston was one of only a handful of “welcoming cities” — a city that prohibits law enforcement from asking about immigration status — in the state, along with Chicago and Oak Park. Though Trump signed an executive order pulling federal funding for sanctuary cities, Tisdahl said the best way to combat Trump’s actions was to get more cities to adopt the status. She specifically asked NU students to urge their hometowns to adopt “welcoming city” ordinances.

“I need your help because you come from all over the country,” she said. “Get on the phone tonight, call your parents, call your great aunt Sally, call your aunts and uncles and ask them to promote ‘welcoming city’ ordinances in their communities. Because we can be safe from Donald Trump pulling our funds if cities all across the nation do this.”

Yohnka also said it was important for students to continue their willingness to engage and be empathetic. Though he said he is confident the executive order will be permanently struck down, students need to engage in the issue and look out for what will come next, he said.

Tisdahl said Evanston would not give up, no matter Trump’s actions.

“I pledge to you, that if everything fails and Trump pulls the funds, the Evanston City Council will stand strong,” Tisdahl said.

Trump wrote on his Twitter account Monday that the executive order is intended to secure the U.S. from potential terrorists.

“The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real, just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle-East. Courts must act fast!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

No citizens of any of the countries targeted in the executive order have committed a deadly terrorist attack in the United States.

Ultimately, it is crucial to stay united in times like this, said Ald. Mark Tendam (6th), a mayoral candidate. Though he said the Trump administration may try to fracture the population with “successful tactics used by Hitler or Mussolini,” it is crucial to learn from history and stick together, he said.

“We said never again after the Second World War,” Tendam told The Daily. “This is it. This is the time to prove that never again. This is 1933. I’m sorry it’s scary, but I have the ultimate faith in our people that they will choose right over wrong.”

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