Campus organization offers way to stand with refugees

Letter by Maggie Sullivan

In the fall, I founded a campus chapter of No Lost Generation as part of a national student initiative supported by The U.S. Department of State to raise awareness about the challenges faced by young refugees.

After a semester of building this organization on campus and partnering with fellow students and community members to volunteer, fundraise and advocate for young refugees, I was devastated on Friday to learn that President Donald Trump signed an executive order which (among many actions) suspended the refugee resettlement program for four months, slashed the number from 110,000 projected refugee arrivals to 50,000 and banned Syrian refugees until further notice.

While this order may not be an explicit Muslim ban, it specifies that religious minorities will be given preference for refugee admissions and provides terminology that allows discrimination against refugees from multiple Muslim-majority countries. In addition, the suspension of the program affects refugees from dozens of other countries.

Security is a valid concern for a government, but this executive order is attempting to fix a system that was far from broken. The U.S. has one of the strictest vetting programs in the world, taking an average of 18 to 24 months, according to the Department of State.

A helpful infographic published by the White House in 2015 outlines the multiple layers of protection, including additional iris scans for Syrians and other refugees from the Middle East region. In addition, over 50 percent of Syrian refugees and roughly 40 percent of all refugees resettled in the U.S. in 2015 were under the age of 18, according to a report by the Department of State.

This executive order is a dangerous step backward in U.S. foreign policy. As the Executive Director of No Lost Generation WKU, as a concerned citizen and as a fellow WKU student, I urge you to take action to stand with refugees.

There are many ways to advocate, including calling (preferable to emailing or tweeting) your representative’s office and signing the ongoing petition to “Keep Kentucky Welcoming” (check the No Lost Generation WKU Facebook page for the link). Also, through the joint efforts of Kentucky Office for Refugees, the International Center of Kentucky, Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services, Kentucky Refugee Ministries and Americana World Community Center, concerned Kentuckians will be gathering at the State Capitol in Frankfort on Feb. 16 for Refugee and Immigrant Day at the Capitol.

The “Keep Kentucky Welcoming” petition will be delivered to our legislators. For more information about the event, including where to RSVP or carpooling with other students, please contact me at [email protected] If you can’t make it to this event, letters of support can be dropped off at the International Center.

I cannot stress enough that from a historical, foreign policy, patriotic and even faith-based perspective, these actions against refugees are unjust and detrimental. Show your support and stand with refugees.