By Azza Altiraifi
Following the Trump Administration’s “Muslim Ban,” CCAS hosted rapid response town hall meetings to discuss the impact of the Executive Order.
On January 26, 2017 President Trump issued the Executive Order (EO) entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” This order was framed as a bold and decisive action by the new administration to curb terrorist activity in the United States. The order barred people from seven pre-dominantly Muslim countries from entering the country for 90 days. It also suspended the refugee resettlement program for Syrian refugees for a six-month period. While many members of President Trump’s base were elated to see the president acting quickly to make good on his campaign promises, for the minority communities who would be most directly impacted, this order triggered tremendous fear and uncertainty. It also sparked some of the most widespread and well-coordinated mobilization against a sitting president in decades. As this played out on a national stage, CCAS immediately issued a statement and began discussions among faculty, students, and staff about how the Center, and the university as a whole, should respond.
In partnership with the African Studies Program at Georgetown and the School of Foreign Service Dean’s Office, CCAS organized a rapid-response town hall to discuss the legal scope of the EO, the constitutional questions it raised, and its implications for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as how students, staff, and faculty could mobilize around the issue. The town hall took place just days after the issuance of the EO, and drew approximately 150 attendees from both Georgetown and the broader DC community. The first panel featured Robert McCaw (Council on American-Islamic Relations), Claudia Cubas (CAIR Coalition), and Yolanda Rondon (Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee). Each of the panelists discussed specific resources for impacted communities. The second panel featured Abiha Bilgrami (D.C. Justice for Muslims Coalition), Betsy Fisher (International Refugee Assistance Program), and Mamadou Samba (D.C. Mayor’s Office of African Affairs).
As the number of lawsuits and constitutional challenges against the Administration mounted, the Center continued to facilitate dialogue on topics of concern to the CCAS community, with two subsequent events being spearheaded by MAAS students. The first was on the intersections of the “Muslim Ban,” the Trump Administration’s rhetoric and policies around undocumented immigration, and the “War on Terror.” This town hall featured Juan Manuel Guzman (United We Dream), Dr. Maha Hilal (Institute for Policy Studies), Sapna Pandya (Many Languages, One Voice), Darakshan Raja (Washington Peace Center), and award-winning poet and artist Tariq Toure.
The second event focused on the history of U.S. refugee policy and was organized in partnership with Georgetown’s Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Bridge Initiative, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching, & Service, Mortara Center for International Studies, and BMW Center for German and European Studies. Students brought in speakers who highlighted the myriad ways in which certain groups have been targeted for exclusion over the course of American history. Panelists included Elzbieta Gozdziak (Institute for the Study of International Migration), Sandy Dang (Vietnam Education Foundation), Sean Bland (O’Neill Institute), and MAAS alum Noga Malkin (International Medical Corps).
Azza Altiraifi is the CCAS Events Coordinator. This article was previously published in the Summer 2017 CCAS Newsmagazine.