The Persian Cultural Society and Iranian Student Association co-facilitated Students for Humanity Week, a series of events from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3 that raised awareness and solidarity for select green-card and visa holders impacted by President Donald Trump’s recently enacted immigration ban.
Trump’s executive order —“Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” — temporarily halted the admission of refugees into the U.S., as well as non-American citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.
While Trump has argued the policy will protect national security by keeping terrorists out of the country, opponents have characterized the ban as an anti-Muslim policy.
Students for Humanity Week included a diverse set of events, which emphasized resistance to the immigration policy and engagement with University and Charlottesville leaders.
In response to the executive order, both CIOs worked to get signatures for a petition to University President Teresa Sullivan, asking the University administration to protect the immigration status of fellow classmates.
The same day Students for Humanity Week started, Sullivan told The Cavalier Daily that the University will work to protect students’ immigration statuses and would only share the information with authorities if required by law.
Sogand Khajavi, a third-year College student and PCS social chair, said the campaign created an open forum to discuss how national policies were personally impactful.
“This experience was very rewarding to me, as I saw how it helped many people express their sadness and concerns with both professors and other students in the process,” Khajavi said. “It was, in a way, healing and beautiful to see everyone come together.”
Other highlights of the week included a fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union — a non-partisan, non-profit organization seeking to protect the civil liberties of those impacted by the executive order — and an “Immigration Teach-In” featuring University professors for an information session on the cultural and social implications of the order.
Arvin Daneshmand, a third-year College student and treasurer of PCS, explained how the teach-in provided professors the opportunity not to only teach, but also personally reflect on the national discourse.
“It was truly a unique experience in having the opportunity to hear insight from such a diverse panel of professors and to hear many of their own touching personal stories,” Daneshmand said. “[College] Professor [Farzaneh] Milani practically had me in tears from her story, and that's coming from a grown man.”
Fourth-year College student Javad Jarrahi, executive board member and spokesperson for IRSA, reflected on the effective collaboration with PCS in promoting unity and facilitating dialogue across community members.
“We successfully brought together the University community as we created a lively dialogue between faculty and students from a variety of departments,” Jarrahi said. “We also hosted several community members, such as Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, representatives from U.Va.’s International [Studies] Office, as well as human resources.”
Signer recently declared Charlottesville “a capital of the resistance” against the Trump administration.
Daneshmand also emphasized how the objectives on which both CIOs collaborated should extend to the larger student body.
“I hope to see a greater participation of more diverse student groups in demonstrating solidarity behind such an important cause that directly affects many of their peers,” Daneshmand said. “It is important for us, as a student body claiming to uphold values of open-mindedness and empathy, to be acting on an issue like this from all sides.”
Tara Razjouyan, a Batten graduate student who attended the events, explained what she believes is necessary for the goals of Students for Humanity to translate into substantive change.
“While Students for Humanity Week was an inspiring success in many ways, constructive change happens when not only those that are against the President's immigration policy come together, but when those in support of it also come together to share their perspectives,” Razjouyan said. “Education and information sharing is not a partisan issue. So, I hope even those in support of the latest immigration policy come to future events like those put on during Students for Humanity Week.”
Over the weekend, U.S. District Judge James Robart issued an order against the ban, halting implementation of Trump’s executive order. The Justice Department is currently appealing the order.