Harvard Students Respond to Immigration Ban


An exhaustive snapshot.


On January 26, as President Trump temporarily banned the citizens of seven countries from entering the United States, liberal America galvanized like never before. A “resistance,” in the offing since that fateful night of November 8, 2016, finally found life as individuals across the country organized, protested, sang songs of solidarity and then protested some more.

University towns such as Cambridge, M.A., by virtue of their global student bodies, are poised to be amongst the institutions and centers that will be hit hardest by the President’s Executive Order. The Indy provides a snapshot of how a cross-section of Harvard students and organizations responded to the Immigration Ban.

Emergency Rally Mobilized in Response to Anticipated Order

In anticipation of an Immigration Executive order at 4:30 P.M Friday (27th January), members of the Harvard community organized an Emergency rally in Harvard starting 5.30 P.M.

Hazami Barmada, a student at the Kennedy School and one of the organizers of the Emergency Rally, said that upwards of 200 individuals showed up for the rally within three hours. According to Barmada, affiliates from both Harvard and various Boston universities participated in the rally. “Our message was one of solidarity, unity and support,” he said.

A Student Global Justice Working Group was also announced at the Rally. In creating the Working Group, Barmada and others sought to gather students from across different Boston-area schools with an interest in global justice. The Group looks to achieve four tangible goals. First, creating a tangible policy toolkit that would be crucial in equipping students, faculty and staff with knowledge about their rights and available resources; second, creating a student support network which entails finding facts on what’s happening to keep each other informed; third, creating a Strategy Group that thinks creatively about when and how to mobilize the Harvard community and beyond; and fourth, creating an Outreach Group that helps share information about various issues personally impacting the lives of Harvard and other students, thereby putting a human face to global justice.

The Group had its first meeting on the night of 30th January in Northwest Labs, and saw a turnout of over 200 individuals, according to Barmada. Barmada also said that the group had compiled a “confidential list of students who had been impacted from various Boston-based schools.” In fact, Barmada claimed that he “personally [knew] of up to 15 cases” of Boston-area students being impacted by the Executive Order. Part of what the Working Group is trying to do is creating a centralized database to track such information.

Harvard Islamic Society Comes Out Against Order: “Violence Against Muslims Is Nothing New”

The Harvard Islamic Society (HIS), the undergraduate organization for practicing Islamic students, released an official statement on Tuesday, January 31, condemning Trump’s orders. In its statement, the HIS asserted that governmental policies that target Muslims could not be separated from “interpersonal violence,” referring to the Texas mosque that was burned down hours after Trump’s order and the white-terrorist shooting at a Canadian mosque a day after. It claimed that such violence was not new. “From the arrival of kidnapped and enslaved Muslims on US shores to modern-day warfare waged across the Muslim world (and, currently, in five of the seven “ban” countries), we know that America has for too long fallen short of its promises to our community and to other marginalized communities,” the statement said.

The statement concluded on a hopeful note by announcing the launch of the Anti-Islamophobia Network (ANI), a task force designed to combat Islamophobia at Harvard and in Boston and the US at large. The ANI will meet for the first time on February 1st in Ticknor Lounge.

Culture as Resistance: Dance The Ban Away

On the evening of Monday, 30th of January, three different undergraduate organizations came together to celebrate the culture that the diaspora from the now-banned countries brought to the United States. The event, called “We’re Here and We’re Proud: We are what makes America great” was organized jointly by the Harvard College Iranian Association (HCIA), Harvard Islamic Society (HIS), and the Society of Arab Students (SAS) in Ticknor Lounge.

To Be Intersectional or Not To Be? The QSA Conundrum

Meanwhile, the Queer Students Association (QSA) found itself in a quandary. At its recent election meeting, the QSA voted to remain “politically neutral on issues that do not explicitly or directly impact LGBTQ+ Harvard students for their identities as LGBTQ+ people.”  Supporters of the legislation claimed that the QSA, as an umbrella body for all LGBTQ+ issues at Harvard, should be a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals of all stripes and leanings.

A petition calling on the QSA to be more “intersectional” was signed by over 200 undergraduates in response to the decision. While it seems the organization’s then Co-Chairs tried to address the petitioners’ concerns by modifying the proposition that was voted upon, the exact nature of the policy remained unclear to many in the organization.

In an active thread on the QSA list, multiple members questioned the rationale behind remaining politically neutral on issues such as the immigration ban. The discussion may have been triggered by the fact that the QSA has not yet released an official statement outlining its stance on the ban. However, the QSA Board attempted to strike a conciliatory note by revealing that it has in fact been working on a draft statement of solidarity.

Aditya Agrawal ‘17 (adityaagrawal@college.harvard.edu) encourages students across Boston to remain active in showing solidarity with those affected by the executive order.