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Trump immigration plan compared to others in history

UNH associate professor of American legal history and immigration, Lucy Salyer, believes that President Donald Trump’s executive order travel ban is history repeating itself.

“Historians are trained to see patterns in history, and Trump’s policy falls right in line with past historical patterns,” Salyer said about the travel ban.

Salyer’s comment was a part of the departments of history and political science along with the international affairs program and the women’s studies program sponsored teach-in titled, “Immigration, Refugees and President Trump’s Executive Order,” that took place on Thursday, Feb. 16.

The teach-in not only included Salyer, but multiple other speakers including graduate student in history Amanda Demmer, professor of law at the UNH School of Law Erin B. Corcoran and representatives from the International Institute of New England Bill Gillett, Amadou Hamady and Azera Abdul-Abrah. The panel provided a wide range of historical, legal and political context to President Donald Trump’s executive order, which he signed on Jan. 27, 2017. The travel ban is often referred to as the ‘Muslim ban’ due to how it limits travel and immigration from seven Muslim dominated countries.

“As educators, we sought to place current immigration and refugee issues in a broader historical and social context,” Salyer said when asked what the panel hoped the teach-in would provide. “We wanted to spark discussion and awareness, and hoped that participants would leave with a better understanding of immigration policies and be inspired to find out more on their own.”

Corcoran opened the teach-in by first giving a summary of what the executive order does, before then sharing what practical and legal complications the Trump Administration has come across in implementing the executive order. Corcoran explained how President Trump’s executive order has not fared too well in court, as federal courts order stays and restraining orders on provisions of the executive order allowing certain visa and green card holders to enter the country. However, Corcoran explained these restraining orders and stays act more as a “pause button,” and there has been no ruling on the executive order’s general legality. 

Salyer and Demmer gave a historical background to the immigration and refugee conversation the United States has experienced in the past. Salyer commented that President Trump’s exclusionary immigration policy falls into an older historical background.

Salyer spoke on the broad historical community reaction to President Trump’s travel ban and stated the American Historical Association issued a statement condemning the executive order. Salyer drew on a number of different historical examples as evidence drawing on the Irish Catholic immigrants of the 1840s, the Chinese of the 1870s, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Bill Gillett and Amadou Hamady, representatives from the International Institute of New England, shared the process in which they immerse refugees that legally enter the United States into new homes, jobs and lives in cities like Boston and Lowell in Massachusetts or the Manchester area. They explained how the institute meets the refugee families at the airport, escort them to their new homes and work with them until they reach full time employment the two also spoke about the overwhelming amount of volunteers they have at the institute who are looking to help refugees.

Abdul-Abrah, another representative from the institute, also shared her story of coming to the U.S. as a refugee seven years ago from Iraq.

“When a refugee comes here, they often become American citizens; they become your neighbors, workers and business owners in your communities,” Abdul-Abrah said.

About 100 students, faculty and members of the community attended the event. One of them, Nooran Alhamdan, a freshman economics major, who thought the talk provided insight on how she and others might get involved.

“You don’t have to go all the way to Greece to help refugees, you can do it right here in New Hampshire or Massachusetts and still make a huge difference,” Alhamdan, said.

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