Students at the College of William and Mary arrive there from countries around the world.
On Thursday, roughly 120 students and non-students gathered in the Sunken Garden to contend the ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The executive order by President Trump, called “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” placed a temporary ban of at least 90 days on people coming from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Four of the college’s students come from one of the seven countries on the list. One of them, a graduate student, is stranded overseas because of the ban, according to Suzanne Seurattan, the director of news and media at the college.
“This ban is incredibly awful for the Muslim community,” said Sam Steed, a student and the Virginia legislative coordinator at Amnesty International. “And it includes a pretty blatant religious test, so any arguments that this is not about religion fall flat.”
Trump signed the order to give the country time to examine at the vetting process that the country has for refugees and other travelers entering the country from that region of the world.
The Obama administration previously identified those seven countries as bastions of terrorist activity.
“Many of them would rather return home,” said Sharon Powell, a Williamsburg-based immigration lawyer. “That’s simply not an option for those who are being resettled in the United States.”
When Trump was elected president, Abdelrahman Aboulatta was disappointed, but not surprised at all.
He said a broad, sweeping ban is wrong and keeps refugees from starting their new lives.
“Millions of refugees have been displaced from their families, and it’s our responsibility to help them to the fullest extent of our ability,” said Aboulatta, who is the president of the campus Muslim Students Association.
Sheerin Gryloo said she concluded quickly that the ban is the latest in a long list of anti-immigrant sentiments.
Before becoming the president of the Middle Eastern Students Association, Gryloo said she grew up around many others of Middle Eastern descent.
Each of them have experienced discrimination, and they carry an ever-present fear of being accosted by members of the public.
“America has not been welcome to immigrants,” she said, adding that she was not surprised by how fear pushed the policy that is now in place. “Not the Italians, not the Jewish. It’s never been welcome.”
Even with the country as divided as it is, a local religious leader said that people try should to look forward. Now is the time to band together, he said.
Look around,” said Max Blalock, who leads the campus ministry. “This is what hope looks like, is when we come together like this.”