Smith Community Gathers for an Immigration Policy Teach-in
Tyra Wu ‘19
Assistant News Editor
Students and community members poured into Weinstein Hall on Monday Jan. 30 for a teach-in about recent U.S. immigration policies led by immigration attorney Megan Kludt. There was an overflow of attendees, with people spilling into every available seat, eventually resorting to standing in the back row and sitting in the aisles. Eventually the event organizers set up a live-stream of the discussion in order to cater to the considerable number of attendees.
This crowd gathered in response to President Trump’s order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Trump’s executive order on immigration also indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the states and suspended refugee admissions for 120 days. Kludt began her discussion by expressing her sorrow at the necessity of this meeting and her surprise at the large turnout.
“It shows that people are definitely concerned and aware of social issues and we do care about undocumented students and undocumented residents in Northampton,” Lauren Evelyn ’20 said. “It was also a stark contrast of what I would expect where I live because I don’t know if I would see that kind of turnout from people who aren’t undocumented themselves.”
According to Trump, this order is intended to protect the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the U.S. In accordance, passengers were barred from flights to the U.S.; some passengers were even forced to deboard their planes. Many foreign students and professionals are now unable to return to their studies or jobs. Like many people, Kludt was surprised by the severity of the ban and the swiftness in which it was put into action.
“When I saw the draft order, I could not bring myself to believe that he would sign it,” Kludt said. “I was further shocked by the provocative implementation of the order, including reports of detention of green card holders at airports, people being pulled off of planes or deported and sent home on account of their citizenship.”
Kludt, an associate attorney at Curran & Berger, decided to lead this discussion in the hopes of demystifying Trump’s ban. During the talk Kludt broke down several aspects of Trump’s orders and advised those affected to avoid travel.
Reilly Sullivan ’20 decided to attend the talk in order to learn the facts from someone qualified in the field of immigration law. “This is affecting people in our community so to have a public discussion about it, led by someone who actually knows what she’s talking about was really important,” Sullivan said.
Like many students, Sullivan derived most information about the ban from social media sites like Facebook. After attending the talk, Sullivan is now able to take informed steps to protest the ban.
“I feel like I have solid actions that I could take to make a difference,” Sullivan said. “It’s not just me saying this makes me uncomfortable. I have the facts to prove this is not right.”
While the nature of the teach-in felt grim at times due to the uncertainty about Trump’s next actions, Kludt concluded by adding that everyone can take some sort of action to oppose the ban.
“I encourage everyone to be creative in thinking of ways to help the community,” Kludt said. “Everyone has a unique skill set and something to offer.”