UMass community reacts to Trump’s immigration ban

By Alisa Weinberg

Jessica Picard/Collegian

The executive order that President Donald Trump implemented on Jan. 27 called for a  120-day ban on the admission of new refugees entering the United States and a 90-day ban on the admission of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order concerned some University of Massachusetts Amherst students.

Some UMass students and staff are reacting to the executive order with disapproval. “I think the U.S. has a moral responsibility to take in people that seek refuge and opportunity in general,” said Ahmad Hamssa, a junior civil engineering major and a member of the Muslim Students Association on campus.

“Muslims have always been a part of the United States. They’ve always contributed to the society, the economy, the culture here,” Hamssa said. “To reject them or to move away is kind of rejecting a part of the United States itself in a sense.”

Hamssa added that the MSA would be happy to answer any questions or address concerns that students may have.

Vikram Pawar, a first-year graduate student and computer science major, shared a similar sentiment to Hamssa. “Weighing the costs versus the benefits in helping so many people who really need help is a better decision to make than to just live in fear and ban people from the country,” he said.

Pawar is not alone is his belief. The common opinion among students is that the chance of a rogue refugee committing an attack is negligible, and that the risk would be worth the reward of potentially helping millions of people.

Scott Blinder, an assistant professor in the political science department, summarized another popular sentiment; “Since our country has been part of the reason that there are so many displaced people or people in danger in Iraq and Afghanistan, then there is a special, more particular, moral obligation on the United States. It also makes practical sense. If we need support from people on the ground in Iraq, then we should treat the people well who have been working with us,” Blinder said. “Refugees are as carefully checked as possible and don’t pose any more of a threat than you or me.”

Blinder added, “The one thing that’s been good to see is how strong the reaction has been on campus and across the whole country and in places where you wouldn’t expect it. I think it’s really important for the many people who are horrified by this policy to keep protesting, keep putting pressure on their elected representatives, and it’s possible to push the issue and get changes.”

Melinda Baker, a graduate student studying music performance, referenced that the signing of the executive order took place on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“I was pretty horrified because of the nature of [the order] and the fact that it’s clearly religiously influenced,” Baker said. “The timing and what it is just repulsive.”

Baker expressed concern of domestic terrorism rather than the fear of terrorism brought by the waves of refugees.

“I am way more terrified of someone going into Walmart and buying a semi-automatic weapon than I am of terrorist activity,” Baker said.

Dorcas Mwathi, a junior public health major, stated that refugees should be gained aid. “They’re the victims. They should be allowed to have a second chance.”

Alisa Weinberg can be reached at [email protected]