Over a hundred Mississippians gathered at Millsaps College for a peaceful vigil in support of Muslims, immigrants and refugees potentially affected by executive orders President Donald Trump signed last week.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
JACKSON A Yemeni man stood on a Millsaps College outdoor stage with two of his children and told his family's story of separation in Arabic last night. A translator helped the crowd understand his story. His family came to Ridgeland, Miss., a few years ago, fleeing the war in Yemen just before it began. The father had to leave his two sons, ages 9 and 11 years old, back in Yemen with their grandmother.
Six months ago, the Department of Homeland Security approved the two boys for political asylum, the translator said, so they could be reunited with their family—after they received visas. The State Department granted them interviews in Djibouti in December, but the war was too intense for the boys to make it to their visa interview safely. Now, Trump's executive order directly affects the family, further stalling them for being reunited. Those attending the vigil could sign petition letters to send the U.S. senators and congressman urging them to help unite the family.
"They are extremely hopeful that they will be reunited soon," the translator told the crowd.
The father spoke to more than a hundred kids, adults and college students gathered at Millsaps for a peaceful vigil Thursday evening in support of immigrants, refugees and Muslims, some of whom President Donald Trump's executive orders signed last week directly affect.
People held glowing candles and huddled together as leaders from various interfaith communities spoke as well as those affected by Trump's executive order, which bans immigrant and nonimmigrant entry for people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days as well as suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days. The order does not block immigrants from countries that Trump's family does business with, however, Bloomberg News reported.
Trump's executive order, called "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," gives the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, as a reason for the U.S. to be vigilant in vetting of immigrants. The seven countries singled out in his order, which are majority Muslim nations, were originally listed in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Ameen Abdur-Rashied, one of the imams at Masjid Muhammad in Jackson, spoke words of prayer and encouragement and then told the crowd that they could not lose hope.
"We are here to speak against fascism and just simply wrong ideologies that oppress us and cause us to lose hope to lose faith, and without hope and without faith, what does one have?" Abdur-Rashied said.
Bishop Ronnie Crudup Sr., pastor at New Horizons Church, cited the words of Martin Luther King Jr., saying that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
"This ban is not something that Jesus would agree with, to single out a people, to single out a religion and to say that those people should not come to a country like this is not right, not righteous. And all freedom-loving people wherever they are particularly in this country should stand up and challenge an unjust decision such as that," Crudup said at the vigil.
Trump's order does not call out Muslim or Christian religions specifically but does direct the U.S. secretary of state and the secretary of homeland security to "prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality" once the 90-day ban is presumably lifted.
The night continued with more speakers from the ACLU of Mississippi and the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, as well as more prayer, with several attendees who practice Islam gathered on the small stage to pray for the call to prayer. Trump also signed an executive order on "Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements" last week.
Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at [email protected].