Panel discusses implications of President Trump’s travel ban

What is the Muslim ban? Is it a Muslim ban? What are the opportunities for action against it?

Those were just a few of the many questions addressed at a Feb. 2 panel discussion at Connecticut College which was organized in response to the executive order temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The #NoBanNoWall eventwas led by Rebecca Vilkomerson ’93, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace. Associate Professor of History and Director of the Global Islamic Studies Program Eileen Kane, Professor of Government and International Relations Tristan Borer and Professor of Human Development Sunil Bhatia also gave remarks.

Vilkomerson launched the discussion by describing the impact of the executive order.

“I find these executive orders to be appallingly offensive, racist, xenophobic and against everything I care about,” she said. “People’s lives are being painfully and cruelly interrupted.”

But Vilkomerson also said that she has been heartened by the passion she has seen at protests from people of all walks of life, including her firsthand experience at the protest that took place at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the hours after the travel ban was signed.

“What’s beautiful about this moment is you have new people coming out who are organizing or demonstrating for the first time,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to push back federally, but there are lots of ways to get involved locally to expand the rights and protect the safety of people in our own communities.”

Kane talked about the history of immigration in the United States and other times when efforts were made to prevent certain groups from entering the country, while Borer spoke about the differences between refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants, and the different vetting processes that exist for each group.

“Nobody is more vetted coming into this country than refugees,” Borer said of the current process, which can take up to 36 months. “It’s an absolute myth that we need better vetting.”

Bhatia, who said he believes the ban may turn out to be one of the biggest political disasters of our time, spoke about the varied reactions to the executive order and the responsibility individuals have to educate themselves and each other. 

The ban has the might of the state behind it, he said, which gives it a legitimacy that will be difficult to counteract. Yet he encouraged students to try.

“Arm yourselves with education, so that you can be prepared—with facts—to have these difficult conversations,” Bhatia said. 

February 3, 2017