Several East Lansing community organizations and citizens are speaking out and supporting local refugees and immigrants after the City Council passed a resolution in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order, banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The resolution, which passed on Jan. 31 with a unanimous vote by the City Council, declared that East Lansing will continue to be a safe and welcoming place for immigrants and refugees. The resolution also states that the city intends to resist any effort made by Trump’s administration to implement the travel ban within its city borders.
Those who were present agreed it was important to pass the resolution, especially in East Lansing, because of the city’s long history of inclusion and large Muslim population.
For refugees and immigrants, the resolution has provided a sense of safety, and for others who aren’t directly affected by the ban, the resolution has added to their motivation to speak out and act.
“I think that anytime one person speaks out, other people feel more comfortable; they don’t feel alone,” said Mayor Mark S. Meadows. “Some people are intimidated by the aloneness of speaking … but I think that it encourages others to also speak out on these issues.”
And that’s what some East Lansing residents and organizations, including the Rev. Katherine “Kit” Carlson and her congregation at All Saints Episcopal Church, have begun to do.
The resolution has motivated Carlson and the members of her congregation to support local refugees and immigrants more than they already do. The church continues to be a part of Action of Greater Lansing, which is composed of local congregations and community organizations who are focused on fighting for the civil rights of immigrants.
“We’re very engaged with the Muslim community here in East Lansing,” said Carlson. “We are not afraid of Islam. We can live in a healthy inter-faith relationship with our Muslim neighbors, and we accept and embrace them. That’s been part of our identity all along.”
As more and more city residents come together and speak up about these issues, the stronger we can be as people and as a community, Carlson explained.
Husn Abbasi, who is an interdisciplinary studies junior and co-founder of Michigan State University’s No Lost Generation Initiative, agrees there’s strength in numbers when supporting causes such as this one.
“If we’re all working toward separate goals we’re not really going to get anything done,” said Abbasi. “If we all come together and show we’re in solidarity with these refugees (and) make this place a home for them, I think it would generate a lot of hope in people.”
Abbasi also explained that this issue and this fight to uphold basic human rights is more about educating people than anything else. While protests and rallies are beneficial, she explained there isn’t much of a turnout from people who may not already be in support of the city’s resolution, which makes it harder to actually gain traction.
To make a bigger impact, her organization focuses on trying to educate people instead. She tries to explain who Muslims are and how alike we all actually are, instead of trying to shut down or demoralize the nay-sayers.
“There’s more of an education factor than a fight factor,” Abbasi said. “People are scared and they don’t know about these people coming in, and I feel if we teach them it will help us help them. I think it’s just more about appealing to people’s humanity.”
Thasin Sardar, the outreach coordinator for the East Lansing Islamic Center, agreed.
“This is a human rights issue,” said Sardar. “The resolution has come at a very appropriate time when the Muslim community in East Lansing, and across the United States, is very worried and concerned because we don’t know what Mr. Trump is planning down the line. So, I think it’s very important for the city government to take the stand and make all its citizens feel welcome here.”
Meadows and the City of East Lansing intend to do exactly that.
“We’re always going to have an open door policy here,” said Meadows. “Regardless of what the president or the national entities decide they’re going to do, our policy is if you can get here, you will be welcome here.”