Mural at 116 St. and 3rd Avenue in East Harlem

It’s not just those from the seven effect countries who feel the effects — and are pushing back.

Text and photo by Cristal Moris

Luis Lopez, a Harlem resident, opposes Donald Trump’s recent immigration ban, even though he doesn’t come from any of the seven Muslim-majority countries. “He honestly isn’t looking out for our best interest,” says Lopez, 28, who is of Dominican descent. “The travel ban is targeting Muslims today, but next thing you know it will target other ethnicities at that.”

Like Lopez, Harlem residents feel they can be singled out next, but they have largely refused to fall into the tactics of fear by the president’s administration.

Days after taking office on January 27th, Trump signed an executive order banning travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Though a federal judge blocked the ban, Trump has vowed to fight back intensifying the legal head-to-head over his authority to protect Americans from terrorism. Recent reports of round-ups of immigrants in a number of states have put many on edge.

Around the Harlem community, the travel ban has touched many, including businesses owned by immigrants of the seven predominantly Muslim nations the order targeted. On the first Thursday in February, Yemeni-owned bodegas and grocery stores around New York closed for hours in protest. “This order goes against what America stands for-the land of the free,” says Abdel Salam Aljomai, 40, a bodega owner in East Harlem. “Protesting shows how we stand together as members of the community. We are not a threat to this country; Trump is trying to spread hate instead of love and unity.”

Many are now paying close attention to the reactions of their public officials in relation to the ban. Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke against it. “I never thought I’d see the day when refugees, who have fled war-torn countries in search of a better life, would be turned away at our doorstep,” said Governor Cuomo in a statement. “This is not who we are, and not who we should be.”

Added de Blasio: ““We must protect and celebrate religious pluralism. In this great city of immigrants, we will remain true to our values and always welcome all who yearn to breathe free.”

Residents are realizing the importance of acting against the current political administration, even by just writing positive messages around the community. “I’m going to keep spreading love around here, no matter what executive orders Trump signs,” said Joseph Brown, 27, a bartender who lives in Harlem. “He won’t be able to divide us; we will stand together.”

Business owners say they have been touched by support from customers. “It fills my heart with gratitude knowing that our customers are not isolating us,” says Aljomai. “Instead customers are showing their love and support for the Muslim community.”

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