The recent Executive Order by President Trump banning non-immigrants and immigrants from seven Muslim majority nations has ensued predictable chaos and uncertainty within the Muslim community and the rest of the world. This situation is rightfully upsetting and frightening, more so because of the lack of clarity regarding how the Order plays out legally. Therefore, it is important to make ourselves aware of the counseling avenues available for the affected people and how to avail them; correct information is our biggest ally at this time.
While there is much uncertainty within the government offices on how to confront this ban legally, there are are provisions made on campus, within the state, and federally. Here are some places where one can gain correct information regarding the ban, and can connect with the appropriate people for counsel on legal matters and otherwise:
- Dashew Center: Better known as the UCLA Center for International Students; this place is a one stop spot for all matters legal and otherwise for international students. Since election night, they have had a counseling team of advisers and lawyers on hand for any queries regarding the uncertainties with the student visa process. After the passage of this executive order, the Dashew Center is fervently urging students of the affected countries to visit them and make appointments with lawyers through them. They also have information sessions planned, dates for which they announce on a weekly basis. The Dashew Center also urges students to speak with lawyers at Wolfsdorf Rosenthal, an immigration firm that the Dashew Center works closely with.
- NAFSA and American Immigration Council websites: These two national organizations are constantly updating their webpages with the most current information regarding who is affected by the ban, and how they should navigate through this process. They are the most reliable source of information regarding this matter. They strongly advise students of these 7 nations to not travel outside the United States as re-entry will not be allowed. The website also has guidelines and associations which can helps students who are affected, or stranded because of the ban, file a Habeas Corpus petition and Mandamus Action.
- ACLU and International Refugee Assistance Project: These two organizations have been relentlessly advocating for the nationals of these seven countries and it was due to their efforts that the court granted a temporary injunction on deporting passengers who had already arrived to the United States when this order was passed. It is important to get associated with them, donate to them, volunteer with them and reach out to them for assistance. (Note: Students who are in the United States on a non-immigrant visa are advised not to associate themselves with any resistance activity because the protection measures do not cover them and only cover permanent residents.) https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/practice_advisory/challenging_trumps_ban_on_entry.pdf
- #HelpTheLawyers: Over this past weekend, innumerable government officials, advocates, activists, lawyers, and citizens have taken it upon themselves to fight on behalf of our community. They have camped outside of airports and other government official buildings advocating on Muslims’ behalf, and as a measure to assist those in need, this movement aims to help by providing food, water and other supplies. Every measure of help and cooperation counts.
- Keep the Momentum Going: This movement of public protest is unprecedented in modern American history; obviously the issue has to be disturbing enough to bring so many people out of the comforts of their homes and out into the streets in protest. It is important to keep the momentum going on relevant issues, hence join protests (not the ones on student visas), and rally for rightful measure to protect the ones affected. You can also call your elected officials, preferably often. States like New York have a 24/7 refugee helpline where you can call to report on behalf of someone who is being wrongfully detained at the airport; they will get you in touch with a legal representative.
Attached is a spreadsheet with the updated contact information of your elected officials according to state and district: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1hSGjyWJZIQJpGz4V2ftX_qioCgBtL59oJkkhx146nFE/htmlview?usp=sharing&sle=true#
Let us be grateful. Yes, this situation is disheartening, humiliating, and painful, which is why more so than before we need to employ the empathetic sides of our hearts, and count our blessings. Let us take comfort in the fact that hundreds and thousands of our non-Muslim brothers and sisters are protesting on our behalves. Advocates, regardless of their nationalities or religion, are doing their best to help our affected Muslim brothers and sisters. Watching the support unfold across the globe has embalmed my heart; it is easy to get bitter by this situation, but let us look at all the faces standing with us, and draw our strength from them. For example, when my TA tried to use this measure as a validation for his views on Islam, my first instinct was to be aggressively defensive—because I was rightfully hurt—but when I heard some non-Muslim students passionately defend our faith before I could speak up, I realized that I am not alone. They don’t know Islam the way I do, yet they are defending it from blasphemous slander. In turn, I feel that my job is to give them factually correct information by using my knowledge in defense rather than my emotions.
So let us educate people with patience and with love; during this trying and testing time, let’s embody the true spirit of our faith and the teachings of Prophet (SAW). Let us smile, be forgiving and informing, because we know that Allah (SWT) loves us too much to let anything hurt us, and every measure is for our benefit. He is the one who knows it all but maybe as a result of this crisis our community can feel the endearing love of the people around us and bring us together. I have decided to not be affected by the ones who fear us, and to draw my strength from the ones standing with us, and educate the misinformed ones. I might be looking through a rosier lens, but I know bitterness will burn me out a lot faster than optimism.
While we are driving our mind and body in being as pro-active as possible, let us not forget to take care of ourselves and relish the little pleasures of life. Stop for a while and feel the sun on your face; it’s been weeks since we were last blessed with its presence here in Los Angeles, so acknowledge it now. Listen to a song that makes you happy and sip a cup of tea or coffee with nothing on your mind but its aroma. Pick up some flowers and adorn the corner of your desk with it, light some candles and unwind (even if you are a guy; floral beauty does not know gender), and before anything else and after everything else, let’s bend down in salat and remind ourselves of all the good that is still there, and inshallah, all the good that is to come. We can only provide comfort if our hearts and minds are healthy and content; it’s important to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.