Anxious Students Listen to Lawyer and Others on Travel Ban

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Last night saw the college’s first major response to Trump’s travel ban since President Smith condemned it on Monday. A panel discussed current and potential policy changes in the Intercultural Center (IC). The panel comprised immigration lawyer John Vandenberg, Muslim student advisor Umar Abdul Rahman, and sociology professor Lee Smithey. International Student Services Director Jennifer Marks-Gold moderated the event, which was co-hosted i20 and the Muslim Students Association (MSA).

The panel began at 6:30 p.m. and drew dozens of attendees, mostly international students and recipients of DACA, the Obama administration program that gave many young undocumented people a semblance of legal status. Some students, like Nader Helmy ‘17, were there simply to show support for their friends. According to International Student Coordinator Reshma Ajayan, the new travel ban applies to one Swarthmore student.

Vandenberg, the lawyer, peppered his speech with disclaimers that he didn’t know what was going to happen.

“[I]t’s kind of a brave new world that we’re living in by now,” he said.

One thing is clear, he said: Trump has immense power over immigration.

Questions mostly came from students who seemed worried about their respective situations: Would the ban one day apply to their country, too? What would happen to work visa programs? As for DACA recipients, Vandenberg advised them not to travel for extended periods: a week should be fine, he said, but spending months in a study abroad program might be too risky.

Then again, he said, “everything you do in life is risk.”

While Vandenberg talked about the future of immigration policy and Rahman addressed these policies’ past, Smithey focused on how to resist them.

“This is a mobilization and organization problem,” he said. “We can bring an authoritarian administration to heel.”

Eduard Saakashvili

Eduard is a film and media studies major from Tbilisi, Georgia. He abandoned The Daily Gazette during sophomore year to focus on his career in club fencing. Big mistake.

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