Local Immigrants, Refugees React To President Trump's Exec. Orders

Posted at 7:48 PM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-30 20:53:39-05

Instead of learning English, a class of immigrants and refugees in Nashville learned as much as they could about President Donald Trump's recent executive order banning immigrants.

"Three branches, remember? Checks and balances. We need somebody else otherwise this is a dictatorship, right," Ashley Coleman directed to students at Peace Ambassadors USA Monday. 

However, it is not a political science class and the people inside are not your typical students.

Everyone who took the class was an immigrant and a refugee, a group severely impacted by President Trump's executive orders to ban new refugees from the U.S. for at least 120 days.

"During this time, 120 days, the government is trying to see how they can change the process," said Coleman, an adult education coordinator with Nashville International Center for Empowerment explained. 

Instead of the usual class subject, English. They're getting a crash course in what Mr. Trump's executive orders mean for them.

"After 120 days, if the law is changed refugees from Syria still cannot enter the United States," Coleman continues. 

That news hit one Syrian student especially hard. "We are not ISIS, We know who is ISIS and I've not heard about anyone from Syria do anything here in America," she said. "I do not understand." 

Mr. Trump's new orders also ban non-citizens from entering the U.S. if they're from one of seven, predominantly Muslim countries.

"Pretty much all of our students are affected by this in one way or another," said Coleman. “They’re getting this news in their own respective native languages as well. They’re talking to family members about it. I mean, as soon as I walked through the door I already heard students telling me that it was all they were talking about in church or mosque. Things of that nature, calling family members, just trying to make sense of all of this.” 

Davoud Bahamin is one of them, "I am from Iran. I have been here for three years." His wife is still in Iran. She did have plans to meet him in Nashville soon, but now, "she is nervous and scared."

They're plans to reunite as a family have been put on hold indefinitely. When asked when he thinks he'll see his wife again Bahamin replied, "I don't know."

There are resources for immigrants and refugees who have concerns and questions about Mr. Trump's new orders. The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition can be reached at 615-833-0384. If you feel you are a victim of discrimination call the Respect Nashville hotline at 615-414-1030 to report the incident.