On Saturday, January 29, Bowdoin students joined 4,000 Mainers at Portland International Jetport (PWM) to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. While no one was being held at PWM, the protest was carried out to stand in solidarity with people trapped both at U.S. airports and around the world as a result of Trump’s executive order. 

While many individuals who attend political protests may not feel immediate fear, some Bowdoin students do. We spoke to four students who have been directly impacted by our president’s actions: Mohamed Nur ’19, Giselle Hernandez ’19, Anu Asaolu ’19 and Hayat Fulli ’19. 

Nur is the son of Somali immigrants. His parents fled the Somali civil war in the 90s and arrived in Portland in 1993. While there are now thousands of Somali people living in Portland, Nur’s parents were some of the first to come to Maine. 

“We’ve been trying to get my mom’s side of the family, our grandfather, some of our uncles, to come to the US for years, and now that’s no longer going to be an option anymore [now that Somalia is on the list of banned countries],” said Nur.

Many of Nur’s friends from home in Portland have had similar experiences. 

“[The order] was absolutely insane, because there are so many people that I know in Portland who are from Somalia, who are from Iraq, Iran, Syria. All my friends are from those countries, and every time I call home or text friends from home, something new has happened,” said Nur. 

“Whether parents are stuck in Iraq, or their sick grandma who’s been trying to come to the U.S. for decades can’t come here anymore and now she has to stay wherever she is and continue to be sick, it’s just really devastating and difficult to hear.”

Asaolu immigrated to Minnesota from Nigeria in 2001 and while Nigeria is not one of the seven countries on the ban, she is nervous about the possible expansion of the order.

“Nigeria is not on the list, [but] Somalia and Libya, other African countries, are on the list and Muslim territories and if you don’t know, the northern part of Nigeria is Muslim, [and includes] Boko Haram terrorists,” said Asaolu.

While she would like to take some sort of action, Asaolu has also felt the need to monitor herself.

“I shared [a petition] on Facebook, then that night my mom called me she said, ‘Why are you doing this—you don’t want to draw more attention to yourself than you need to,’” Asaolu continued. “There’s a lot of fear because I want to be active, but at the same time she is right. I can’t put myself in the open.”

Hernandez is more personally concerned about Trump’s Mexican immigration policy and his proposed wall. Her mother immigrated illegally from Mexico and she knows people will not stop attempting to enter the country.

“A wall will just make it more dangerous for people trying to pass.” said Hernandez. “Hundreds of people, hundreds, have died in the past decade coming into the U.S. And [the wall] is just going to increase those numbers. It’s not going to keep people out, it’s just going to make it more dangerous for people to come.”

As Hernandez noted, coming to the United States legally is not a realistic possibility for some immigrants. 

“People say, ‘You just have to do it right, you have to [immigrate] legally,’” Hernandez continued. “Sometimes, that’s not an option … If my mom had been waiting, it would have taken her 26 years, [like it did for my aunt] to become a legal resident.”

Instead, Hernandez’s mom crossed the border to the United States illegally in 1990. She became a legal resident 23 years later in 2013, not because her paperwork was finally processed but because her eldest daughter turned 21. 

Like Nur, Fulli was born and raised in Portland. Her parents are from Ethiopia and, while she too worries about the extension of the immigration ban, its immediate and unexpected arrival has left her disoriented.

“I don’t know, I think it’s hard just because I feel like I haven’t even processed it. So sometimes especially with the conversations at Bowdoin I’m fearful it will be expected that I have all these answers and kind of have all these experiences that I’m just supposed to share when in reality I just don’t really know what it means for me,” said Fulli. “I have these certain emotions but I don’t really know what that looks like, and [what] actions [to take], or what that means.”

The escape Bowdoin offers Fulli can be relieving, but the lack of any casual conversation about the ban on campus has also been worrying. 

“I think there’s this false security that I feel at Bowdoin that sometimes I lean on but at the same time makes me feel a little incomplete, because at home, 40 minutes away, it’s just a different environment.”

Hernandez has found strength in Bowdoin’s tightly-knit community. 

“The people that I associate with, the people that I’m friends with, generally have all expressed the same thing: ‘No ban, no wall.’ That’s really reassuring,” she said. 

Nur, though, has also noticed a difference in tone between how his Portland community has reacted compared to Bowdoin, and is frustrated by Bowdoin’s lack of daily dialogue on the subject.

“My high school that I went to, they’ve been protesting left and right … It’s really inspiring to see high schoolers getting out there, protesting, marching and knowing that they’ll stand up for their friends … I wish, at least here at Bowdoin … we were more vocal or just as vocal as them because if they can do it why aren’t we.” 

Asaolu also believes the student body can do more. 

“How much people are not talking about [the ban] really freaks me out. There are select target populations of people speaking about it … but there are so many people who claim to be liberals on campus who don’t view this as something to be discussed,” she said. 

Nur agreed, noting, “I want more people to talk about it. Because there are definitely people on this campus who are being directly impacted by [Trump’s actions]. I want people to be able to attach a face to a name, to humanize this issue.