Members of the Gainesville community gathered in Turlington Plaza Sunday night to protest President Trump’s executive order which suspended all refugees or citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Kimia Ghaffari, a freshman at the University of Florida, led the protest which included about 200 people. Protesters carried signs that read things such as “Muslim rights are human rights” and “No Ban, No Wall.”
Also Sunday night, UF President Kent Fuchs released a statement regarding the executive order.
In light of the administration’s executive order suspending the entry of individuals from certain countries into the United States for 90 days, we at the University of Florida affirm our support for our international students, faculty and staff.
We are committed to the rights and opportunities enjoyed by all members of our university community, including those who are citizens of other countries. Embracing all members of our community and maintaining a welcoming environment for talented students, faculty and staff from around the world are central to our values and identity as a university. It is also critical to excellence in education, research, economic development and other contributions to society.
It is this core belief in inclusion and diversity that has also led to UF’s support for the students of undocumented parents, particularly DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals) students, over the years. In November, UF joined a number of universities in a statement of support of DACA students. Additionally, the University of Florida is committed to keeping student records private, consistent with state and federal laws. We do not collect or provide information on immigration status except when required by law.
UF has approximately 7,000 international students. We estimate there are about 200 students, graduate students, faculty and staff from the seven countries addressed in the order. We are advising these individuals not to travel outside the U.S. in the immediate future and will continue to monitor the situation and update them as possible.
Islam on Campus (IOC) President Maria Ilyas, a UF senior, said while she wasn’t at the protest, she was grateful President Fuchs released the statement.
“It was really good that [Fuchs] came out and said something,” Ilyas said. “In my experience, UF has been very welcoming, but it’s not a universal sentiment. UF is not perfect.”
She said the IOC Facebook page received numerous messages showing support since the ban was announced. Their 14th annual Fast-a-Thon event is being held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the O’Connell Center. Ilyas said she plans to address the executive order then.
The Volunteers for International Student Affairs (VISA) at UF also affirmed their support this weekend by writing. “We would formally like to note that VISA does not stand for any cultural or religious segregation and will help stand up for any group who feels threatened within their community,” the organization stated on it’s Facebook page.
VISA is holding office hours in the Reitz Union, Room 3106 from 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays for students who needed to discuss recent events.
VISA is also circulating a petition asking President Fuchs to stand with refugee, international and undocumented students at the university. In the text, which was altered after Fuchs’ statement was released, they thanked him for “standing with us today and voicing your support for the continuation of student visas and access to quality education for all Muslim, refugee, migrant, undocumented and international students.”
At the time of publication, there were 208 signatures on the petition.