At least two Brooklynites have been impacted by President Donald Trump’s executive order that bars citizens from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, and borough residents responded by protesting in opposition to the policy.
A large group joined Borough President Eric Adams outside the United States District Court – Eastern District of New York, 225 Cadman Plaza East, on Monday, January 30, and rallied in support of City University of New York (CUNY) student Saira Rafiee, who has been denied reentry into the United States despite having an F1 visa.
Rafiee, a Prospect-Lefferts Gardens resident and Ph.D. student of political science at the CUNY Graduate Center had been visiting her family in Iran during her winter break before she was denied entry into the states.
“One of the victims here is a CUNY Grad Center student who is held from being able to come back into the country and we are here because she is representative of the countless number of students who are in a state of limbo and uncertainty,” said Adams, adding that approximately 120 CUNY students could be impacted by the executive order. “What we are calling for today is for all of our educational institutions, CUNY, SUNY, the Department of Education, charter schools, private schools to play a major role.”
Although Rafiee’s cousin Mina was slated to speak on behalf of her relative, Adams explained that she was fearful of doing so. “She feels as though if she shows her face in this climate, she would somehow be prevented from moving forward with her dream of participating in the American dream which has turned into an American nightmare for those of the Muslim faith,” he explained.
Adams read a statement by Rafiee. “I was on a vacation going back to my country like many other students to see my loved ones, like many other students,” she explained.
She was about to check in at the airport when Donald Trump signed the executive order banning people from Iran and six other countries from entering the U.S. “I got on the flight in Abu Dhabi, but at the airport I was told that I would not be entered in the U.S.,” she said. “I had to stay there for nearly 18 hours along with 11 other Iranians before getting back on a flight to Tehran. I have no clue whether I’ll ever be able to get back to the school I love so much or to see my dear friends there.”
“You heard the quality of her thoughts and generosity, even in her own moment of extreme need, thinking of other people,” Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress for CUNY, said. “I vow to fight for her and her rights. You see how united we are in fighting for the simple right of someone who has been thoroughly vetted and has a visa, simply to resume her studies. It is an outrage.”
“Our message is a simple one: You cannot set us against immigrants because that is who we are,” added Hercules Reid, student president at City Tech. “This is especially true for CUNY students. You cannot look at the faces of the nearly half a million students of CUNY without seeing the faces and stories of millions around the world. We are calling on Congress to take action and do what they have been elected to do and reverse this executive order.”
Besides Rafiee, Crown Heights resident Dr. Kamal Fadlalla, who works at Interfaith Medical Center and who is from Sudan, another country included in the executive order, has also been prevented from returning to the U.S. “(He) is stranded in Sudan,” said Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr. “Last Saturday he was prevented from boarding his flight to the U.S. While he and other immigrants are banned from re-entry into their homes and lives, those of us who are in the United States suffer from their absence.”