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Trump travel ban spurs outrage, halts refugee resettlement in Northampton

  • April Cannon, center right, of Belchertown, with her wife, Karen Foster, and children Jesse, 5, and Gavin, 1, protest President Trump's decision to ban Muslims and refugees Sunday on the Amherst Common.

  • People protest President Trump's decision to ban Muslims and refugees Sunday on the Amherst Common.

  • People protest President Trump's decision to ban Muslims and refugees Sunday on the Amherst Common.

  • People protest President Trump's decision to ban Muslims and refugees Sunday on the Amherst Common.

  • Ursa Scherer, of Greenfield, protest President Trump's decision to ban Muslims and refugees Sunday on the Amherst Common.

  • People protest President Trump's decision to ban Muslims and refugees Sunday on the Amherst Common.



@jacksuntrup
Monday, January 30, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — President Donald Trump’s executive order freezing refugee resettlement and travel to the United States for nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries rattled politicians, charity leaders and international students over the weekend, triggering another wave of demonstrations to protest the weeklong presidency.

The order, which stops refugee resettlement for 120 days, threw a wrench in the long-planned effort to resettle 51 refugees in the Northampton area, although the head of the charity coordinating the effort vowed to continue preparations.

Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, executive director of Catholic Charities Agency in Springfield, said she planned to start resettling refugees this month. But since the Nov. 8 election, she said, the agency expected setbacks.

“It’s one thing to expect something,” Buckley-Brawner said. “It’s another to actually see it in writing and know that it has been signed. It was profoundly disappointing, extremely shocking to know that we would, as a country, do something that is so devoid of compassion.”

Buckley-Brawner said some 18 refugees out of the 51 total were closest to being resettled. She said Catholic Charities had issued “assurances” to the national agency coordinating resettlement. Those assurances were essentially promises Catholic Charities could accommodate the refugees, a last hurdle in the resettlement process.

“However, those 18 individuals, though they have assurances from us, they have not left their port of exit,” Buckley-Brawner said, “therefore, they are also affected by this 120-day suspension.”

Buckley-Brawner described the situation as “fluid.” With protests and a “significant legal pushback,” she said there is hope the situation could change in the coming days and weeks.

But for now, there will be no refugees resettled in Northampton, she said.

Colleges respond

Trump’s order, issued at 5 p.m. Friday, also enacted a 90-day ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the United States.

Spokespeople from area colleges said they had reached out to their international students, staff and faculty.

“We are currently advising students and employees from the affected countries, including those who are dual citizens or have green cards, not to travel outside of the U.S.,” John Courtmanche, spokesman for Hampshire College, said in a statement.

He said the school enrolls about 70 international students at its 1,300-person campus, but wouldn’t say how many of the 70 were from the countries affected.

University of Massachusetts staff “have been working to connect with students, faculty and staff affected by this action and determine how to assist them,” a statement from UMass President Marty Meehan said. “Several were out of the country at the time of the executive order, including two UMass Dartmouth faculty who were detained at Logan Airport on Saturday despite being lawful permanent residents of the U.S.”

Meehan continued, “We are deeply disheartened by this alarming action that has violated the rights of members of the UMass community and many others. This is not the country we promised to them when we invited them to study, teach and conduct research here.”

Ed Blaguszewski, spokesman for the Amherst campus, said the school would likely have more details Monday on how many students and faculty were affected and what directives administrators gave.

Caroline Hanna, spokeswoman for Amherst College, said the school was aware of five students who may be impacted by the order.

At Smith College, spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel said all students and scholars from countries affected by the order “are safe and on campus.” She did not say how many in the Smith community were affected.

In a letter to the university community, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney advised international students from the named countries not to leave the United States, and said the school would make arrangements for any affected student who “wishes to remain in the United States over the summer.”

Representatives with Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley could not be reached Sunday.

Local reaction

About 300 people gathered at the Amherst Town Common at 1 p.m. Sunday. Demonstrators brought signs, drew honks from passing cars and mingled in small groups away from the sidewalk.

Hundreds, perhaps more than 1,000 more people, gathered to protest Trump’s travel ban at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., Sunday afternoon.

Liz Friedman, 49, of Northampton, said she filled a van full of friends to make the trek to Connecticut. She said she spent the weekend scouring Facebook to try and find out about any local demonstrations protesting Trump’s order.

“When I heard about the executive order I was absolutely outraged,” she said. “And I knew I wasn’t the only one.”

She said besides continuing to protest, she would run to be a Northampton delegate to the state Democratic Party convention in June.

“I think that we all have to realize that life has radically changed,” Friedman said.

Lindsay Sabadosa, 36, of Northampton, said the protest stretched from one side of the baggage claim to the other.

“We met several people,” Sabadosa said. “A man brought a very large American flag so my friends helped him hold it up because it was too large for one person.”

In Amherst, those interviewed said they heard about the event through Facebook and showed up on short notice.

Susan Buckland, 61, of Amherst, wore her laminated certificate of naturalization around her neck. She immigrated to the United States from Canada as a child and became a citizen in 2011 because she wanted to vote. She’s white.

“If I were brown, would they let me in?” she asked rhetorically. As to why she became a citizen, she said, “I believe in this country. I love this country.”

A woman named Fereshta, 22, who declined to give her last name, said she was an international student at Smith College. She declined to say her country of origin, but said she is Muslim.

She wondered what would happen if she or other international students left the country.

“Are we going to be able to come back?” she asked.

Leaders react

Politicians issued statements through the weekend condemning Trump’s moves.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said in a statement Sunday that his administration is analyzing consequences the order may have on academia, the medical community and in other sectors.

“I believe focusing on countries’ predominant religions will not make the country safer as terrorists have showed they intend to strike from across the world,” Baker said in a statement.

“The confusion for families is real. The unexpected disruption for law-abiding people is real. And the lack of guidance associated with such an abrupt and overwhelming decision is hugely problematic for all involved.”

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined protesters at Boston Logan International Airport and shouted from atop a table.

“We will make our voices heard all around this world!” she said via Twitter. “We have all heard about this order that President Trump has given. It is illegal! It is unconstitutional! And it will be overturned!”

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey joined thousands of protesters in Boston’s Copley Square to speak out against the measure.

Two U.S. congressmen from the Pioneer Valley also issued statements Sunday criticizing the move.

“President Trump’s travel ban is wrong, divisive and contrary to America’s core values,” said U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield. “Turning our back on refugees fleeing conflict and persecution will only damage our reputation around the globe.”

U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester, called the order “shameful.”

“We are better than this,” he said in a statement. “I urge Republicans in Congress to join Americans across the country in rejecting this hate-driven policy and call on President Trump to immediately rescind this executive order.”

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.