It is difficult not to let out a tear of joy when you see people all around the world joining hands to support a community that they may not even be a part of. It is even more difficult to not raise your head with pride and in high sprits when you witness tiny fingers holding placards that read, “No hate. No fear. Refugees are welcome here.”
But are Refugees really welcome here?
A report released on February 17 by the PRI suggests that a number of refugees are being smuggled to Canada because “the United States is now a changed nation.” The numbers mostly consists of women and children travelling on foot or in trucks with their bare bodies displaying blue fingers and frostbites. But Canada’s liberal immigration policy is hardly a justification or a relief from President Trump’s regular threats to tighten the immigration policies even further.
In the light of these events, the public has not backed down to show immense support for the immigrant and refugee community.
After the success of the Women’s March and the Immigrant protests worldwide, student organizers came upfront earlier this month to challenge the controversial executive decision preventing immigrants from seven countries to enter the United States.
Donald Trump’s presidency may have generated fear and concern but it has also given birth to fighters who stand against “bigotry, hatred and prejudice.”
This is exactly what Hebh Jamal, 17, a dynamic activist preaches and practices. Through her tireless effort and persistence, Jamal, along with Carlene Pinto, campaign manager NY Immigration Coalition, successfully pulled out a walkout with hundreds of New York City students. Jamal’s school, Beacon High School, witnessed the largest turnout of over 200 students.
“Obviously my school is not going to support students walking out, but at the same time we as students don’t necessarily need to care with whether or not the school agrees,” Jamal said. “We have to think about the risk factor. We have to think about how we can thrive and win.”
Pinto agreed, as she mentioned that this was the first time that students were being pulled out of school. She first became an activist about 10 years ago when she was called a “stic” in college, a derogatory term used for Latinos. Her active participation and encouragement added to the Protest’s huge turnout.
The protest held on February 7th at Foley Square was also co-sponsored by the New York Immigration Coalition, the Arab American Association of New York, and MPower Change. Around 25 schools and colleges with a count of more than five students each participated in the event.
“Protests become more important when NYC students do this. What happens here catches fire everywhere. We need to keep the pressure up,” Pinto said.
Unmoved by rain or cold, the students at the rally chanted, “Donald Trump go away! Racist. Sexist. Anti-Gay,” and “Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like.”
A student present at the rally, Aaron Boockvar-Klein, 17, from Bard High School Early College in Queens explained how the President would be affected by these protests. “Trump personally gets riled by any shot at his popularity and these protests are in direct opposition to how he wants to be seen by others and himself,” he said.
Another student, Rehnuma Kabir, 17, also from Bard, talked about appreciating differences and moving past it. “Sometimes people say that they are color blind and they don’t see color but that is just brushing it under the carpet. Recognizing differences and celebrating it should be the right way.”
Jamal singing a chant by the Peace Poets commenced the move from Foley Square. The crowd merrily sang along the lines “Oye mi gente, traemos la fuerza. La libertad es mi única bandera. Rise up my people. My condors, my eagles. No human being will ever be illegal.”
It has never been more important to participate in these protests and to be aware of what’s happening around the city. For the same reason and more, two NYU students, Arsh Harjani (Tisch ’18) and Sara Nason (Gallatin ’18), co created an app called ResistX which is an SMS and email service designed to update New Yorkers with ongoing protests everyday.
Your participation is important. Our participation is important. Saving the refugees is important and keeping the immigration community from dissolving is important. They need to hear this one line more than anything, “No human being will ever be illegal.”