Robbie Short

People began congregating in front of Sterling Memorial Library shortly before 6 p.m., the word “solidarity” projected onto its facade. Just 15 minutes later, the quad was filled with more than a thousand people holding candles, and the crowd and its flickering lights overflowed from Cross Campus onto Elm and Wall streets.

At a Sunday night vigil, Yale students, faculty and community members gathered to denounce President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, which barred citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries and refugees from entering the United States.

The vigil lasted for nearly one hour, with many in the crowd attending a benefit concert for Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in Battell Chapel immediately afterward.


“I hope it galvanizes the Yale community to stand up for our Muslim brothers and sisters and also all the other people who are going to feel the pain coming out of this administration,” said Gregg Gonsalves GRD ’16, an organizer of the vigil and a lecturer at Yale Law School.

The vigil was put together with less than a day’s notice by a group of community organizers who began meeting regularly after Trump’s election in November, and followed a smaller impromptu protest Saturday night and amid growing international news attention for Trump’s ban.

“It was very organic and spontaneous,” said Hope Metcalf ’96, a professor at the Human Rights clinic at Yale Law School and the executive director of the Schell Center for International Human Rights. “I personally have many students who are affected by the executive order.”

At Battell Chapel, performances from the Yale Glee Club and at least seven other groups drew a full house.

Abrar Omeish ’18, president of Yale’s Muslim Students Association, told the News that she knows of at least four Yale students who are directly affected by the order.

She also said that the Office of International Students and Scholars has contacted affected students and that the administration is “on our side.” The MSA will hold a meeting on Tuesday to start a collaboration with other organizations to brainstorm resources available to students.

Over the weekend, University President Peter Salovey sent two emails to the Yale community regarding the developing news from Washington, and residential college deans and campus leaders offered their own messages of support and reflection as well.

Salovey and other administrators attended the vigil, as did many New Haven residents.

“I’m hopeful that when people come out like this and they express points of view that are respectful, but at the same time express a different point of view, that we can move the conversation to a more responsible and productive place,” said Jim Odea, who lives in New Haven.

Ross Edwards, a professor of political science at Albertus Magnus College, said the protest was a reaction to Trump’s “amorphous” campaign promises. Trump’s policy on immigration, Edwards said, is antithetical to what a democracy represents.

“A true democracy needs to be for inclusion, and a true democracy needs to be for a humanity that understands commonality, or it’s not a democracy,” he said. “That’s a fundamental democratic tenet, and we need to stand up for that.”

The vigil followed a 100-person rally organized by Yale students on Saturday night. Spearheaded by Stephen Williams-Ortega ’20 on behalf of both the New Haven antifascist solidarity movement and the MSA, the event also aimed to show solidarity with those affected by Trump’s executive order.

At the Saturday protest, the crowd repeated messages of inclusion: “Say it loud. Say it clear. Immigrants are welcome here” and “Let them in.” As a commentary on how Trump’s executive order is in opposition to American ideals, Williams-Ortega also led the protesters in singing the national anthem.

A number of Jewish students at the protest expressed anger that Trump had signed the refugee ban on the same day as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as well as over Trump’s failure to mention the Jews in a public memo recognizing the holiday on Friday.

“This executive order is particularly stark as a Jew,” said Avigayil Halpern ’19, the social coordinator for the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life.

Several students interviewed Saturday said that Yale should play a larger role in response to the executive order. Ben Levin ’20 said he believes Yale “should be making statements right now that show that they stand with students who are against Trump’s racist policies.”

Jessica Holmes, a member of the Board of Alders for the City of New Haven, said Yale has “immense resources and power” and should use them to counter Trump’s administration.

Since Trump’s actions on Friday, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp has publicly denounced Trump’s immigration actions. Harp has been a firm advocate of New Haven’s status as a sanctuary city.

“We are standing with refugees and standing up against Trump’s unconstitutional executive order,” said Daniel Vernick ’19, a member of the Yale Refugee Project who attended the vigil. “The resistance is going to come from the grassroots and from the people rising up and standing up and standing in solidarity.”

Vernick was one of several Yale students who also attended rallies in New York City on Saturday to advocate for the release of detained immigrants from detention at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

New Haven accepted 110 Syrian refugees between January and September 2016.

Jon Greenberg, Jacob Stern and Sara Tabin contributed reporting.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    Every American since 9/11 has been “inconvenienced”. We cannot take shampoo, soap, lotion, or even water while traveling. We are radiated and must take off shoes, belts, and scarves. If we are super lucky, we are groped. we are CITIZENS and subjected to this intrusion so….Too damm bad if this is inconvenient for people trying to come here.

    • yaleyeah

      Exactly, and you’ll notice all these measures took effect immediately following an act of Islamic terror, but they punish everyone, because you know profiling. If you go to Canada, they are going to ask you questions, and if they don’t like your answers, they send you to immigration for more questions. This happened to me.

  • Nancy Morris

    There is no “Muslim ban.”

  • ShadrachSmith

    You can get on the Trump train, or lay down in front of it. Your choice.

  • Nancy Morris

    From much media coverage one might easily conclude that Trump’s action is unpopular. According to Rasmussen Reports, the exact opposite is true, with 57% approving and only 33% disapproving Trump’s Order, meaning the protestors described in this article are completely out of touch with a large majority of voters:

    “Most Support Temporary Ban on Newcomers from Terrorist Havens

    “Monday, January 30, 2017

    “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 57% of Likely U.S. Voters favor a temporary ban on refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen until the federal government approves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here. Thirty-three percent (33%) are opposed, while 10% are undecided….

    “Similarly, 56% favor a temporary block on visas prohibiting residents of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the United States until the government approves its ability to screen for likely terrorists. Thirty-two percent (32%) oppose this temporary ban, and 11% are undecided…..

    “These findings have changed little from August when 59% of voters agreed with Trump’s call for a temporary ban on immigration into the United States from “the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism” until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists.

    “The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on January 25-26, 2017…

    “52% of voters say the federal government does not focus enough on the threat of domestic Islamic terrorism….

    “Most voters opposed former President Obama’s plan to bring tens of thousands of Middle Eastern and African refugees here this year. Sixty-two percent (62%) said Obama’s plan posed an increased national security risk to the United States.

    “Obama and Hillary Clinton wouldn’t say it for fear of offending Muslims worldwide, but most voters continue to believe the United States is at war with radical Islamic terrorism. Trump declared war on radical Islamic terrorists in his inaugural speech.

    “During the campaign, voters felt Trump would do a better job than Clinton protecting them from terrorists.

    “Just 32% think the United States is safer now after eight years of the Obama presidency. …

    “Last January, 72% of voters said the federal government is not aggressive enough in finding those who have overstayed their visas and sending them home.”

    • ethanjrt

      Interesting how the numbers change with the wording:

      It’s also fascinating that 2/3 of Americans think that the executive order makes them less safe or doesn’t change their level of safety at all:

      So 57% of Americans support the executive order, but only 31% of Americans think it will make us safer. I wonder where the gap comes from? Cognitive dissonance? Love of Dear Leader? Just DGAF about refugees or America’s identity as an immigrant nation?

      • Nancy Morris

        Ok, it’s fun to play games with polling questions phrasing and samples and methodologies and so on. But every time one turns that screw one risks importing more of one’s own biases (“Dear Leader?” Check your biases!) into the analysis and exporting objective polling data. Eventually one just winds up with a funhouse mirror image of one’s own prejudices presented as a poll analysis. That’s how a lot people in October convinced themselves that Clinton had a 99% chance of being elected.

        The Reuters and Rasmussen Polls are pretty different, so I wouldn’t think playing a question from one off a question from another would yield much additional insight.

        Your comment seems like an awful lot of effort directed at not really accepting that this pollster found that people approve of the president’s order by about 2-to-1, a ratio that has been quite stable for a long time. Maybe you’re on to something here, but I just don’t see it.

        • ethanjrt

          The first 2/3 of your comment is hand-waving about polling data being silly, so I’m going to skip right to the final bit: “a ratio that has been quite stable for some time.”

          Rasmussen (which had a much higher margin) targeted “likely US voters” and was conducted before the executive order was released. Reuters targeted American adults ages 18+ and was released afterwards. Notice how the margin tightened considerably, from 57-33 in support to 48-41 in support. More recently, a CBS/Gallup ( poll has it as 51-45 *opposed*. One might easily conclude that Trump’s action is… unpopular. (The only amendment I’d make to that is to use the “actions,” plural — Trump now officially has the highest disapproval rating of any president two weeks into his term.)

          Interesting how quickly the “high ground” of popular opinion can fall out from under you. Fortunately, the moral high ground is in the same place it’s always been.

          Maybe you still “just don’t see it,” though. I get it. Isn’t that kind of the underlying theme of the Trump phenomenon, on both sides?

          • Nancy Morris

            No, I still don’t see it, and your reply is incoherent nonsense.

  • yaleyeah

    If the left are going to burst into hysterics over everything Trump does, it’s going to be a long 4 years, and the general public is going to get FED UP and vote more Democrats out of office in 2018. I have never seen this level of ignorance on display, and on the campus of Yale no less.

    1. The Constitution does not grant any non-citizens an unfettered right to enter this country. To say otherwise is… well….

    2. Do Yale students understand the definition of the word, “temporary”?

    3. If Obama did the same thing in 2011, doesn’t that mean it’s really not a big deal? Jimmy Carter also did the same thing.

    4. We had a near total ban on immigration for 40 years starting in the 30’s, until JFK’s immigration reforms of the 60’s.

    Grown adults acting like children is no way to walk through the world, folks. Get a grip on your sanity and your rational mind. The rest of us are losing patience with you.