Dozens of Pitt, CMU academics rally to again protest Trump travel ban

They joined Academics United rallies happening across the country.

Academics United
MJ slaby / the incline
MJ Slaby

For Hosseing Zareh, a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, President Donald Trump’s travel ban means that if his wife’s flight was 10 hours later, she wouldn’t be here right now.

She came back from a visit with her family in Iran and 10 hours later, the ban happened, Zareh said.  He considers himself lucky, but said there are many other who weren’t — like those who will not finish their educations or who will lose their jobs.

As the wind whipped around the pavilion in Schenley Plaza, students, faculty and staff from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University stepped forward to share their stories about President Donald Trump’s immigration and travel ban to a crowd of more than 100.

One speaker said his wife couldn’t join him because of the ban. Another said she hasn’t seen her father in four years and now that time will grow during the ban.  Some were scheduled to speak, others joined on the spur of the moment. They spoke about their worries for colleagues and friends who won’t be able to go home for weddings or funerals and about how thankful they were for support.

The Thursday afternoon “Academics United — No Visa and Immigration Ban” rally was happening in solidarity with rallies happening on about 50 other campuses, said Daniel Gingerich, a CMU graduate student who helped organize the event along with multiple student groups including graduate student government organizations and Iranian Student Associations.

Friday marks two weeks since Trump’s executive order was issued.The order stops the refugee program for 120 days, stops resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. indefinitely and bans citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. Since the ban, multiple lawsuits were filed and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing if the order can resume.

Pittsburgh campuses have spoken out about the ban since the start. There was a rally in Oakland the day after the order was issued and faculty from multiple Pittsburgh universities have continued to sign an “Academics Against Immigration Executive Order” petition.  On Monday, a group of 50 faculty and staff members at Duquesne University asked for more protection for international students and others, including “barring immigration officers from entering campus without a warrant,” reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Organizers of the Thursday rally asked attendees to donate to sign petitions and speak out on social media. They also handed out flyers with information about calling lawmakers or donating to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Genevieve Cook, the director of the Office of International Services at Pitt, said there are about 4,500 international students, faculty and staff at Pitt and less than 100 are from the seven countries named in the ban.  

“You could look at this and say that at a place like Pitt, it hasn’t been a big deal,” Cook told the crowd. 

But tell that to the people who will miss family events or to parents who won’t be able to see their son or daughter, Cook said. She added that there are new students and faculty members who won’t be able to come to Pitt now.

For many Americans, Cook said the ban is abstract and is about people who are from countries they fear.

“But the ban affects real people,” she said.