Text and Photo by Joey Viglietta
Enzo Soderini, an immigration lawyer for international students at the City College of New York, speaks in a near-whisper, as though wary of surveillance. He has discussed the same issue for several days straight.
“I have met so many students from Middle-Eastern countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria,” says Soderini. “They are good students, decent human beings. They show no anger. But they are concerned. The president tried to portray them as extremists or fundamentalists, when the opposite is true.”
On Friday, January 27th, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, mainly in the Middle East. City College enrolls students from nearly every country, and a few of them were blocked from re-entering the U.S. after winter break.
Trump announced the ban with bravado. “This is The Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” he read aloud during a televised event as he signed the order, “…that’s big stuff.”
Big stuff indeed. With the stroke of a pen, the new President instructed and empowered Customs and Border Patrol to deny entry to hundreds of millions of people. Most notably, this blocked refugees fleeing the bloody Syrian Civil War from seeking safety in the U.S.
Last week, federal judges in Seattle and Washington challenged and temporarily struck down the ban, but Trump has vowed on Twitter to “SEE [THEM] IN COURT,” and a complex legal battle likely awaits to see what will become of it. In the meantime, City College prepares to fight back.
For many, Trump’s aggressive rhetoric has had a strong unifying effect. Like the massive Women’s March the day after his inauguration, CCNY students and faculty have lined up protests to speak out against the travel ban on campus.
There was a lot of backlash towards the immigration ban,” says Bradley Soo, a 21-year-old senator in the undergraduate student government. “There’s a large Muslim population in this college.”
The order sparked widespread protests at numerous airports across the country, with lawyers and activists showing up en masse to denounce the ban and offer assistance as hundreds of people were denied entrance to the U.S. or detained for questioning.
The college’s interim President Vincent Boudreau also opposes the ban. Soon after the order was announced, Boudreau put out a statement that the administration would resist to its full legal ability, declaring, “I will not grant permission for immigration officials to conduct their work on campus—so that means they would need a court order to enter private areas, such as classrooms and offices.”
A small number of people support the ban on campus, but as City College generally leans left politically, they rarely speak out. “They don’t express it,” Soderini explains. “They are conservative, but they operate behind the scene. There has been reports by students to me that there are groups supporting the President. And that’s OK; this is democracy.”