One year after President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, Yale students and New Haven residents gathered in front of Sterling Memorial Library on Sunday night to show their continued support for refugees and immigrants.
About 200 people attended the vigil, which lasted for an hour. Afterward, many of them proceeded to a benefit concert for Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, of IRIS, and the TPS Alliance in Battell Chapel. Student leaders and community organizers who spoke at the vigil emphasized sustained vigilance, saying that Trump’s policies still threaten immigrants and that the fight against those policies must continue.
“As we stand here tonight, together, a version of Trump’s Muslim ban is still in effect,” said Trinh Truong ’19, director of advocacy of the Yale Refugee Project, which organized the vigil. “We have spent the last year fighting like hell, and we must keep fighting like hell even if we’re tired, because refugees and immigrants are still welcome here.”
Sunday’s vigil mirrors a rally held one year earlier in response to Trump’s immigration ban. Over 1,000 students and community members congregated on Cross Campus for that event, which was also followed by a benefit concert organized by IRIS.
Truong told the News that the urgency of immigration reform is even greater now than it was last year. The Trump administration has intensified its efforts to target immigrants and refugees in the past year, she said, increasing detention and deportation of immigrants and eliminating Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of Haitians, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans.
Executive Director of IRIS Chris George noted that the crowd was much smaller this year and stressed that the issue of refugees and immigrants is “still a crisis for the country.”
Several speakers at the vigil called on Yalies to do more to support immigrants and refugees than just showing up to visible events like this one.
“Are you here because you care or because you want to look cool holding a candle?” asked Alejandra Ortega ’19, an undocumented student who spoke at the vigil. “It is up to all of you here to know somebody who is undocumented beyond just their sob story, beyond their report card.”
Truong said she thinks Yalies now feel like they have a “bigger personal stake” in immigration reform after the deportation of Melecio Andazola Morales — father of Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18 — despite protests and advocacy on campuses across the country. Still, she said it is a constant struggle to get students to “actually do work beyond just showing up to things.”
Speakers at the vigil also touched on congress’s failure to renew DACA and pass immigration reform. Ramón Garibaldo GRD ’22 urged the community to reject legislation that protects Dreamers but not other undocumented immigrants from deportation, and that does not loosen immigration enforcement.
Kelly Pinos, a sophomore at Wilbur Cross High School, spoke about her family’s experience since her father, Nelson, took sanctuary in First and United Summerfield Methodist Church in November. She told the crowd to get involved with Unidad Latina en Acción, an organization fighting against her father’s deportation.
In an interview with the News, Garibaldo said he hoped people left the vigil viewing immigrants as humans and “not just political objects” and that students would feel empowered to donate to ULA and other organizations that aid refugees and immigrants.
“I feel like when we view something as political, we see it as really distant, and this is something that’s happening in our community,” Garibaldo said. “New Haven is a sanctuary city. Every day you see this push and pull between federal immigration enforcement and local authorities and affected communities”
New Haven resident Andrea Konetchy said she and her husband attended the vigil to show support for immigrants and DACA.
“It’s important that people physically show up,” she said.
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