Dear Brown School Community,
As many of you are no doubt aware, on Friday, January 27, President Trump signed an executive order that blocks the entry of refugees into our country for the next four months, suspending those from Syria indefinitely. The executive order has additionally banned citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries for the next three months, and prevents the reentry into the U.S. even for those with green cards (although information is still emerging about some of the implications of the order).
This weekend the impact of this executive order was felt across the country and world as visitors, immigrants, refugees and green card holders returning home to the U.S. were not allowed to leave their countries of origin or were denied entry or detained upon arriving in the U.S. This has raised concerns across the country in terms of civil rights, human rights, and religious freedom. Legal scholars are questioning the constitutionality of the order and politicians on both sides of the political aisle have openly criticized it. Some point out that this order actually increases the threats that members of the Muslim community will experience, as well as increases hostility towards the U.S. around the world.
Protests sparked across the country, including one on Saturday in downtown St. Louis and one on Sunday at Lambert International airport. Brown School social work and public health faculty, staff, students and alumni were present at both, demonstrating solidarity with those affected and advocating for an inclusive society free of ethnic and religiously based discrimination. One of the most powerful chants was, “This is what democracy looks like. This is what America looks like. This is what community looks like.”
We are at a time in our world when there is a refugee crisis that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people fleeing life-threatening situations. The pictures from around the world of severe human suffering, particularly of children, have been heart-breaking, making this executive order all the more disturbing. We have been here before as a nation, as members of our Jewish community can attest, turning away people for religious and political reasons with full awareness of the risks of harm they would be facing. This stands in stark contrast to our response as a state and a country, when St. Louis welcomed tens of thousands of Bosnian refugees, the vast majority of whom were Muslim – people who have greatly enriched the culture of St. Louis with their presence.
The Brown School is proud to be the St. Louis home to students, staff and faculty from across the U.S. and the world. The diversity of these groups enhance our community and become one avenue to ensure that our research and educational offerings are relevant, innovative and impactful. Any type of systematic barrier to our ability to recruit the very best faculty, staff and students from across the world threatens our commitment to diversity and to the value of creating leaders that fulfill the mission of our school, the pursuit of research and educational excellence for the purpose of advancing justice and change.
The actions over this weekend suggest once again that our policy and advocacy skills at the local, state and federal level are critical. We must ensure that those we work with feel safe, see us as allies asserting the need to protect the rights and dignity of all, and watch us become involved in action-oriented activities with the explicit goal of a just social contract for all people in the U.S. and across the globe.
There are myriad ways to be active. At the Brown School, we are committed to increasing our impact and using this platform to advance equity and change.
- It is up to all of us to first educate ourselves regarding this and any other executive orders or laws that come from our government. The individuals and communities that depend on us must be assured that we understand emerging policy decisions. We should know exactly who will be affected and how, as well as see opportunities to dissent and spur action to protect those made vulnerable by new policy actions.
- Participate in planned protests with the action groups of your choice; be one of the organizers or supporters of protests as they occur locally and across the nation (just as many in our community marched recently in St. Louis and D.C.).
- Call your lawmakers to share your position on local, state and federal policy issues.
- Learn how to advocate for legislation from Missouri representatives. Here is one opportunity: GOV 101, Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. RSVP required.
- Sign petitions that reflect your policy position. For example: Academics Against Immigration Executive Order.
- Web searches will help you identify local and national organizations to contribute your talents to. For example, The Arab American Association of New York has been key to organizing across the nation around a range of social justice issues.
- Help create an inclusive community by checking in with and showing support to our international students, staff and faculty colleagues who are might be distressed or fearful of this new executive order. Students who are feeling distressed can find support by talking to Essie Rochman, Director of Student Affairs, Danielle Bristow, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Tammy Orahood, Director of Global Programs, or Carolyn Lesorogol, Associate Dean for Global Strategy and Programs.
This week, you will see a first communication regarding the launch of the Clark-Fox Policy Institute. The Institute seeks to advance social and economic justice by working collaboratively to connect evidence-based policy solutions to public awareness, practitioner training, and policy decision-making. Building on the intellectual capital of the Brown School’s renowned faculty, staff and students, the Clark-Fox Policy Institute will partner with policy makers, elected officials, community and service leaders and other key stakeholders to insist that the best evidence serves to guide the creation and implementation of public policy impacting children and the adults who care for them. The Institute will hold a launch event on Wednesday, April 19. Please save the date. More information will follow.
We are a diverse and inclusive community who values all members of our community. Let’s stand together!
Neidorff Family and Centene Corporation Dean, Brown School
Associate Dean for Diversity, Brown School