Students react to executive order

The Tech interviewed students and staff in Lobby 10 Wednesday afternoon to gauge campus reaction to President Donald J. Trump’s executive order on immigration.

Some community members we spoke to were not familiar with the executive order, some knew of it through sources like Facebook, and others appeared to have done substantial research.

“I think we should coordinate some kind of protest with the administration and the students here to let people in the government know that MIT is not going to accept this,” said Marcus Powell ’19.

Of those who addressed protests, only one woman, a Sloan fellow, thought that protests would be ineffective. She speculated that Trump enjoys the attention, even if negative.

Administrators apparently held with those who believe in the protests. Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 addressed a crowd of MIT community members in Lobby 7 last Sunday as students geared up to attend a protest in Copley Square. She said she was proud of the students for showing compassion and organizing in behalf of other community members.

Tech reporters in attendance estimated that 200 MIT community members were gathered in Lobby 7.

Jonathan Spirnak, a grad student who is “more on the conservative side of things” said that the travel ban is a “tragedy” for the affected MIT community members. But he thinks that it’s been  “overplayed by the media,” clouding what he feels to be the true message of the order, which is “looking out for the protection of the American citizens.”

“I think the order was extremely poorly written and poorly designed. But I think the intent behind it is correct. I don’t believe it is anything drastically different from what the Obama administration did,” Spirnak said.

He was probably referring to the additional vetting step that President Barack Obama implemented for Iraqi immigrants in 2011, after a specific case in which Iraqi immigrants were found to have been part of an insurgent group, as The New York Times reported at the time. The additional vetting may have slowed down visa issuance for up to six months.

The ban represents “pure ignorance and complete lack of understanding and compassion of really what the ramifications are. And even if [Trump] knew the ramifications, I don’t think he’d be at all concerned,” an MIT staff member said.

“It’s definitely put up some roadblocks. With the start of the new semester you kind of feel the anxieties ramped up a lot and I’m just a staff member and I can feel it too,” a different MIT staff member said.

Madee Haworth ’19, who grew up as a Republican but now considers herself “more independent,” calls the ban a “xenophobic, bigoted, and discriminatory measure.”

“I understand that Trump and supporters of the ban probably think that it’s in the best interests of the country, but I don't think it will keep us safe at all... In fact, I’m scared that the ban gives radical groups like ISIS the ability to recruit because they can say that the U.S. is ‘at war with Islam,’” she wrote to The Tech.

Haworth, who attended the protest is Copley Square, believes the ban discriminates against individuals who “went through all the necessary legal channels to be vetted and get visas and green cards” based on their religion and national origin.

The Tech reached out to the MIT College Republicans and MIT Democrats.

“The MIT College Republicans club acknowledges that the United States has the prerogative and necessity to keep its citizens safe, up to and including closing its borders to countries that openly sponsor terrorist activities,” the group told The Tech in an email.

Given the executive order, the MIT College Republicans believe that “all international citizens with valid visas, especially student visas, should be vetted and accordingly granted entry into this country with the utmost speed and diligence.”

While some use terms like “Muslim ban” to describe the order, the MIT College Republicans believe it is “intended to be enacted without religious prejudice,” and they expect it will be.

The College Republicans, like many of the other students we spoke with, indicated their hopes that the two MIT undergraduates currently barred from entering the country due to this order will be able to return soon.

The MIT Democrats say that many members were upset by the order.

“It throws into question how [MIT] can claim to draw the best and brightest, when our own government rejects the potential of hundreds of millions of people out of hand based purely on where they were born,” said the group in an email to The Tech.

“You can bet that when Trump issues his next outrageous executive order we'll be out there in the streets the next day, making our voices heard.”

William Navarre and Katherine Nazemi contributed reporting.