GRADUATE EMPLOYEES ORGANIZATION LOCAL 6297 Stands in Opposition to Executive Order

Approved unanimously by the General Membership Meeting, February 2, 2017

The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Local 6297, is firmly opposed to President Trump’s recent Executive Order banning refugees as well as visitors and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.  We stand in solidarity with the unions, civil liberties organizations, public officials, community leaders, and activists who are fighting this measure.

We agree with our parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, which said in a statement: “We oppose Trump’s orders, the racist and xenophobic logic that underlies them, the havoc they have created in the lives of those affected, and the damage they have done to America’s standing in the world and to our national security.”

We reject President Trump’s narrative that this is not a ban on Muslims but rather a response to foreign terrorism. Islamophobia and xenophobia were a clear plank in his election platform. While still a candidate in December 2015, he explicitly called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Last week, he said that he would give priority to resettling Christian refugees over those of other religious backgrounds. His confidante Rudy Giuliani told Fox News this past weekend that the president specifically wanted a “Muslim ban.”

This order has direct impacts on GEO members, especially those from the seven banned countries. Those of us who are affected will not be able to attend conferences overseas, travel for job interviews, go home to visit friends and family, or have family come visit us. For those of us with partners or children in other countries, these restrictions are especially dire. As international graduate student workers provide vital labor to universities, hospitals, and research centers, this order is already having ripple effects harming entire communities and industries and, in the long term, America’s relationships with the world.

There are already heartbreaking stories of international graduate students across the country being adversely affected. Nazanin Zinouri, a recent PhD graduate of Clemson University, explains how she went to visit family in Iran and is now unable to get back into the U.S. Without warning and after seven years of living in the U.S.,  she is now indefinitely separated from her friends, her dog, her house, her car, and her job. “As far as the U.S. government is concerned, my life doesn’t matter,” she wrote.

Whether by design or through carelessness, the rapid implementation of this Executive Order has created chaos for hundreds, if not thousands, of travelers and their families.  At airports across the country, travelers with legal visas are currently being detained without lawyers, handcuffed, and questioned for hours. One woman and her two children were held for 20 hours without food at Dulles Airport. We consider these to be blatant violations of basic human rights.

It is important to note that, although the restrictions on travelers from the seven countries is set to last for 90 days, the Trump Administration is calling it a “trial” period, indicating they intend to make this permanent. It remains to be seen what the ultimate scope of these restrictions will be.

We strongly encourage GEO members to participate in the ongoing protests against this refugee and immigrant ban, which are already making a difference. For example, the Executive Order originally applied to people with Green Cards from the seven countries, but after the protests began, the Trump Administration backed off and said Green Card holders would be exempt from the ban (though they are still being detained at airports and subjected to abusive treatment).

If you are a UIC student with questions about the implications of this Executive Order for your legal status here in the United States, please contact the UIC Office of International Services.

For legal assistance to people who have been or may be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or other agencies, we recommend reaching out to the following organizations:

First Defense Legal Aid (24-hour emergency hotline: 1-800-LAW-REP-4)

National Lawyers Guild-Chicago

If you want to learn more about this issue, get involved, or show solidarity, here are some places to do so:

American Civil Liberties Union

Arab American Action Network

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

American Federation of Teachers

Academics Against Immigration Executive Order

Also, you can call your member of Congress or Senator and tell them to oppose this Executive Order.

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