At approximately 12 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, members of the UCR community convened in front of the steps of Rivera Library for a rally entitled, “No to Visa and Immigration Ban,” joining 52 other universities around the country ― some of which were forced to postpone their event due to poor weather conditions ― to join together against President Donald Trump’s visa and immigration ban.
While the rally was created by Academics United and publicized through a Facebook event showcasing their goals and participating universities, students Madhi Akbarimoosavi, Alireza Eshraghi, Nasim Eslami, Marzieh Kameli, Gelareh Naseri and Kimia Claudia Yaghoubi — members of UCR’s Iranian Graduate Student Association — organized and hosted the rally held at UCR. The demonstration was held in order to speak out against Trump’s Friday, Jan. 27 executive order banning those entering the country from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Yemen, for at least 90 days.
More than 100 UCR community members crowded under the Rivera library walkway in front of the stairs, some holding cardboard signs reading phrases such as, “No ban! No wall! Justice for all!” and “Say it loud! Say it here! Immigrants are welcome here!”
Eslami spoke first and later introduced those set to speak throughout the event. “We stand together, to shine a light, on the injustice of this executive order,” Eslami declared. “We want to be able to finish our studies, without having to choose between our future, and our families.”
Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Mariam Lam also spoke on the issue, explaining to attendees that the UC system as a whole has been working in favor of students who are or may potentially be affected by the executive order.
“Know that from the office of the general council, federal and state law and university policy continue to prohibit making any admissions or other academic decisions based on a candidate’s national origin or religion,” Lam elucidated. “So you do not have anything to fear from the university itself.”
During the rally, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs James Sandoval reassured students of resources available to students who held fears pertaining to Trump’s executive order.
Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies and Chair of the Academic Senate Dylan Rodriguez expressed his frustration over the events unfolding in association with Trump’s immigration ban. “This is not merely an immigration ban, we know this. This is not merely an Islamophobic and anti-Muslim ban, we also know this. This is a racist ban,” Rodriguez stated. Rodriguez then described what he deems the “racist state” that exists under the Trump administration, and how activists could work to speak out and fight against the roots of white supremacy in the United States, as demonstrated by this executive order.
Eslami brought the rally to a close through an explanation of her personal story as to how the ban has affected her.
After the rally, Isabella Wasem, a second-year pre-business student, explained her stance on Trump’s executive order. “The situation doesn’t affect me personally, but I think we need to stand as a community and help those that are being affected,” stated Wasem, who also expressed her view that the notion of America as the “land of the free” can only be maintained if everyone stands by this idea.
On the day of the protest, Trump’s immigration and visa ban was overturned in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. As of time of writing, there has been no formal statement issued from the Iranian GSA or Academics United in response to the court’s ruling.