5C Students Protest Immigration Ban at Ontario Airport


People holding up signs. One says "Welcome All! No Ban! No Wall!"
Protestors hold signs high in protest of Trump’s executive order outside Ontario Airport on Jan. 28. (Courtesy of Sahana Mehta)

Three hundred people, including 5C students and professors, gathered outside Ontario International Airport last Sunday, Jan. 29 to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Trump’s executive order prohibits entry to the United States for citizens and U.S. green card holders from Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Iran, and Iraq, while also indefinitely banning Syrian refugees seeking asylum.

Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA), a 5C progressive student organization, initiated the protest to allow students and residents from the Inland Empire to connect and voice their concerns about the executive order.

Signs outside the airport declared, “Immigrants make America great!,” “No hate no fear,” and “Muslim lives matter.” 

YPDA member Sahana Mehta SC ’20 felt that the Ontario Airport protest was more intimate than other protests she had attended.

“For me, as a South Asian person, I felt that this hit close to home in an interesting way because within the South Asian communities I’m a part of, there’s a lot of Islamophobia,” Mehta said. “So being able to stand in solidarity with my Muslim family was really powerful and showed me that we can escape and dismantle the Islamophobia that exists in American, Indian, South Asian, and white contexts.”

Other YPDA members expressed similar feelings about the protest.

For Priya Prabhakar SC ’20, the protest allowed her to meet “others who share [her] pain and sense of activism, but also, it’s about agitating the status quo at its very core, which is incredibly important, and that’s what these protests do.”

YPDA member Ian Schiffer PO ’17 said that protesting is not the only way to voice dissent, however.

“There’s a myth that protests are the only way to fight,” Schiffer said. “But fighting can be in your pocketbook; fighting can be in your rhetoric; fighting can be making nonwhite spaces for people of color. It starts with yourself and [the branches in] other groups.”

According to Prabhakar, the YPDA approach is to “agitate, educate, and organize” by hosting workshops, forming issue-specific committees, distributing weekly action emails, and coordinating with other 5C groups. 

YPDA also connects students with community social justice organizations because – according to Schiffer, “To exist in this campus, in a bubble, is to not truly get an education, and I think we need to be working with local organizations. Especially now.”

For Mehta, the YPDA approach is about “keeping the momentum going and making sure people don’t lose energy or fall into a fake sense of ‘we’re okay’ when we’re not,” as well as understanding that “these problems didn’t start a week ago, and they don’t end in two or four years.” 

As the protest came to an end, students and community members joined hands, formed a circle, and sang, “We shall not be moved; just like a tree standing by the water, we shall not be moved.” 

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