For Duke grad student Jose Romero, borders exist not only between states and countries, but also “between souls.”
Romero and a crowd of about three hundred Duke students, faculty, and others sought to bridge those divides Tuesday night at a “No Wall, No Ban” rally in front of the university’s towering chapel in protest of the Trump administration’s recent actions related to immigrants and refugees.
“I want to feel the heat from our hands melting that ICE,” he said, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Students, alumni, and faculty took turns at the mic decrying Trump’s rhetoric and America’s legacy of building itself up on the backs of those it oppresses.
“The ugliness didn’t start with Trump, the ugliness won’t end with Trump," said one Muslim student. “As long as we continue to pretend that the pathologies of this nation can be attributed to one man as opposed to years of oppression, injustice, and violence, I can assure you that this ugliness will never end.”
Several students also took the opportunity to demand their school throw its biggest weapon into the fight: money. The university has already pledged not to share student records with law enforcement without a subpoena, and while rally organizer Sydney Roberts says that’s “incredibly important,” there’s more the school could do to make students feel safe besides putting out diffusive statements. Allowing Tuesday’s protest—“Creating spaces to mourn and be angry” at a primarily white institution—is a much-appreciated start, she said.
“There are students who now cannot see their family, who can’t go home and see their family because they wouldn’t be able to come back to school,” she said. “That’s horrifying—a very basic ability to see your mom is now taken away from you and the university is like, well, we won’t release your citizenship status.” (The university this weekend issued another statement calling the travel ban “confusing and disturbing.”) She and other students involved in the rally and the Ad Hoc Resist and Support Group that put it together also want Duke’s administration to provide legal advice to students and pay for legal representation for students dealing with citizenship issues.
Asked whether Duke would be willing to pay affected students’ legal fees, vice president for public affairs and government relations Mike Schoenfeld said in an email Wednesday, “The university is in regular contact with students from the affected countries and will continue to work with them to assess their situations.”
In a December statement to students and staff, Duke president Richard Brodhead threw his support behind Dreamers—undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, but said Duke could not become a “sanctuary campus. … No university in America can declare itself immune from the rule of law. However, university campuses are governed by their own communal values and offer the protection of those values to those who live in them. Duke University values its students no matter their background or immigration status, and historical moments like this one offer an opportunity to clarify that commitment. We will continue to create a community that is welcoming and supportive to all.”