On January 27, 2017 at 4:42pm, President Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee resettlement for 120 days (with occasional exceptions for religious minorities), barring Syrian refugees from entering the country indefinitely, and temporarily banning everyone, including refugees, from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States for at least 90 days. The countries included in the ban are Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Because these provisions were made through executive orders, they do not require congressional approval, but are nonetheless treated with the same legal substance as a law passed by congress. This immediate action amplified the announcement from earlier in the week that gave the go-ahead on a multi billion dollar wall along the southern border of the United States. Trump’s actions sparked outcry and lawsuits throughout the country. Over the past few days, judges around the country have blocked parts of the order, leading to gridlock. It is likely that an appeal to the Supreme Court may happen soon.
In light of this policy change, many of us have pondered how to respond in a way that supports the immigrant and the refugee. As a part of a democratic society, we each have the ability to communicate our opinions with our representatives. There are several things that you can do to make your voice heard at the community and national levels. Keep reading for a list of tangible ideas. Please note, the information in this post is accurate as of the date of publication. This is a complex situation, and its status is prone to change in the coming days and weeks.
- First and foremost, communicate with the people in your life who may be affected by last Friday’s executive order. Advise family, friends, and acquaintances who are visa or green card holders from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, or Yemen not to leave the country. Similarly, advise family, friends, or acquaintances who are visa or green card holders and who speak limited English and/or are unaware of the recent executive order what the current situation is and how it could affect them. Call the NewBridges office at (540) 438-8295 to learn about options for legal representation.
- Next, communicate with those in authority. Congressman Bob Goodlatte, who represents Harrisonburg and the rest of Virginia’s 6th district, issued a statement on January 27th applauding President Trump’s executive order to halt refugee resettlement and ban refugees from seven Muslim majority countries. Contact Congressman Goodlatte’s office to urge him to support refugee resettlement in the United States. Below is a sample text that you can use in the body of an email or as a phone call script. You can also contact the White House using a similar script.
Dear Congressman Goodlatte,
I urge you to welcome refugees and support the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Resettlement is a core American legacy that extends hospitality and offers a chance for refugees to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. Evidence shows that refugees are not a national security threat. In the history of the United States’ refugee resettlement program, there has never been an act of terror committed by any of the 3 million refugees resettled here. Furthermore, refugees are already one of the most highly vetted populations of people entering the United States. Sealing the borders to refugees who are fleeing violence and persecution is an ineffective means to increase national security. The Harrisonburg community welcomes refugees and I urge you reflect the best of our nation by supporting refugee resettlement in the United States.
- Finally, use social media to speak out against the executive order. Use #NoBanNoWall, #GreaterAs1, and #GreaterAs1Harrisonburg on all social media platforms. Tweet and/or Facebook the White House and the President using these hashtags. Community support will show the government, if and when it decides to resume refugee resettlement, that Harrisonburg is a city that welcomes refugees. Follow Rocktown Rallies and CWS Harrisonburg on Facebook for more calls to action on behalf of refugees.
- If you are able, make a financial contribution to an organization that supports refugees around the world, or an organization that is fighting the refugee ban here in the United States. Credible organizations that work with refugees internationally and domestically include Church World Service and Church World Service Harrisonburg, the International Rescue Committee, CARE and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union has brought a lawsuit against the White House in light of the refugee ban. Your donation will support the critical work that these organizations do on behalf of refugees.
- Donating your time and energy can be just as effective as donating money. Identify ways that you can get involved at the community level. Here in Harrisonburg, check out Rocktown Rallies for Refugees and consider hosting a Soup for Syria event, or donating a bicycle to a refugee family. Making an in-kind donation to the CWS Harrisonburg office can also help refugees who arrived in the area before resettlement efforts were suspended.
- Use your time and resources to support advocacy efforts in the community. There have already been organization efforts, including a rally on January 29th at the courthouse that drew hundreds of people and warranted local coverage. Keep your eyes out for more efforts like this in the future.
- There has been word of an Immigration March on Washington sometime soon in 2017. Follow their Facebook page for details and information. Peaceful protest is a powerful way to advocate for just policies that prioritize refugees and immigrants.
Now, more than ever, is the time to extend a hand of welcome to our neighbors here in the Shenandoah Valley, no matter their country of origin, ethnicity, immigration status, or skin color. If you have any additional ideas or wisdom to add to this conversation, please do not hesitate to contact us here at NewBridges.
About the Author: Lindsay Wright is a 2016 graduate of James Madison University, where she double majored in Communication Studies and Spanish. She is currently completing a nine-month internship at NewBridges, where she is producing content for the blog and getting experience working with clients. In her free time, Lindsay enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time outside in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Contact Lindsay at [email protected].