Travel ban hits home for the Lasell community Reply

By Ryan Fitzgerald, Tristan Davis, Armando Machado Jr. & Lane Sulzer – Co-Editor-in-Chief, Features Editor & 1851 Staff

By now, most members of the Lasell community are aware of the travel ban currently being placed in the United States. In some cases, people within the Lasell community feel personally affected. 

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Max Michelson is a Holocaust survivor living in Lasell Village. Originally from Latvia, he immigrated to America in 1947. Photo by Michael Bueno

President Trump first signed an executive order in January to keep refugees from entering the country for 120 days and immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia were pushed out of the country for three months, according to CNN.com. But that order was not approved by federal courts.

Trump has recently revised his executive order, taking Iraq off the list. The new ban now does not allow travel for citizens of the remaining countries for three months and the refugee suspension is still planned to last 120 days, according to an L.A. Times article. These are predominantly Muslim nations and Trump’s argument is that this ban will make America safer from the threats of terrorism. 

“[The new ban] is certainly better- drafted than the prior version, especially with regard to not excluding those who have the lawful right to be in the United States. But it still designates majority Muslim countries where there is no linkage to terrorism in the United States. This still runs afoul of the 1965 Immigration Act, which prohibits discrimination based on national origin. And based on prior statements of President Trump that Christians would be allowed in, this still can be challenged as a Muslim ban. Put simply, it corrects some of the problems courts found with the prior executive order, but many of the serious problems remain,” said UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky as quoted in an L.A. Times article. 

The reaction to this ban has been mixed throughout the entire world and much of the opposition in the United States has been centered around the argument that the ban is unconstitutional. But international students  are an important part of the population at Lasell. There are a number of faculty members on campus who are originally from other countries. As a result, many students and faculty on campus have strong feelings on this issue.

“It’s not fair to judge all people because of the actions of a few. You cannot say all Muslims are bad or the whole country is bad because of a few people. I believe that America is built on freedom, and actions like this are totally against American policy,” said Abdularazag Alenazi, a graduate student from Saudi Arabia.

Associate Professor of Public Relations, Dana Janbek is originally from Jordan, which is not a part of the executive ban, but believes all international people are affected by the decision.

“Personally, I have had to cancel a trip to Spain and a business trip to Canada due to potential problems re-entering the country,” she said. Janbek highlighted the humiliation and embarrassment caused by the order and the increasing amount of Islamophobia in our nation, pointing to a story of a man in the Boston area throwing a soda at a Lasell student.

Janbek noted that students could help others by engaging in programs that promote education on these issues w participating in protests to combat the order. She said that anyone who is in favor of the order should follow the data showing a decrease in terrorism rather than simply the methodology of acts. 

Chair of Accounting & Finance and Associate Professor of Economics Tulin Johansson is originally from Turkey and feared that her family back home might be unable to visit her or her daughter. “Cutting out one part of the world’s culture or religion from our community would limit our learning, diversity, and inclusiveness,” she said. 

The ban affects more than students and professors across the Lasell community as well. “The lessons I learned were that we have to respect the dignity and life of all persons. We must respect them, you may not have to like them, but we’re all different and we’re all human.” Max Michelson said of lessons he learned after immigrating to America from Europe. Michelson is a Holocaust survivor and current resident of Lasell Village.

Michelson was born in Riga, Latvia in 1924 into what he described as an “affluent Jewish family.” But the Nazis forced him from his home in 1941 and he worked as a slave for the next few years. “I was 16 when I was taken from my country and for four years they were desperate to kill me,” Michelson said. 

“The last place I was in was a slave labor camp in Germany, part of the concentration camp Buchenwald. The aim of the Germans was to starve you and work you to death. Survival was primarily luck. [And luckily], Germany collapsed a few months before I collapsed,” he said.

Michelson hid in burned buildings and eventually escaped to an American zone in Europe. He was liberated from German control in 1945 and immigrated to New York in 1947. 

“I was 22 when I came to this country,” he said. “Coming to America – this was a blessed country, much more blessed than it is now.”

The 92-year-old married an American-born woman 18 months after arriving in America. He earned citizenship three years later and worked as a radar engineer for around 40 years. He said he felt accepted coming here and feels that refugees today should be accepted the same way he was. 

“The anti-Muslim feeling you get with this travel ban was not as exclusive as an anti-Jew feeling at the time I came here. It was not expressed in this blatant way,” he said.

“I felt very safe here [when I arrived], I don’t feel as safe anymore,” he added. 

“Sadness comes to mind” when Associate Professor of History Denny Frey thinks of the ban.

“Sure there are evil-doers out there, there are nasty folks out there but most of the people traveling [to the US] are either going to see family, going to see friends, they are interested in the culture, they’re studying abroad, they’re working abroad. They don’t have malicious intent,” he said.

“You can go back to what’s written on the Statue of Liberty. I know it’s a couple hundred years later but those basic values still apply that we are looked at as a country who would take in the huddled masses and the poor and try to help out people who are struggling in awful situations,” said Assistant Professor of Communication Michael Laramee. 

The Lasell community has strong feelings about the ban and immigration. Many believe the history of immigrants in the United States tells the American story.

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