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Geography Major Fatimah Mozawalla Among Panelists Discussing Immigration

On Thursday, May 11, 2017, a panel of mainly students and faculty presented a brief history and current status of immigration into the U.S. as well as personal experiences in Closing the Door: The Immigration Debate

Dr. Rosanna Perotti, Chair, Department of Political Science, gave an overview of U.S. Immigration policies over the past 100 years.  Alex Hayes, a junior majoring in Public Policy & Public Service, concentrating in Immigration then offered updates on policy changes since the inauguration this past January.

Elise Damas, an attorney with the Central American Refugee Center of New York, shared stories about applicants who have recently come into her offices needing help, and she mentioned that a sky rocketing number of permanent residents are now looking to apply for citizenship, as they feel insecure under the new President.

Fatimah Mozawalla, a junior Geography major, spoke about her experience as a Muslim American. She opened by telling those gathered that she is both an American and a Muslim, and that both are an important part of who she is. She also described what it’s been like for her and her family growing up in post-9/11 America. Fatimah, who was three years old when the events of 9/11 occurred, has never known what America was like prior to that day, and went into some detail about how she and her family, particularly her younger siblings, have been affected by the Islamophobia that grew from those events. She has often been told to “go back to where she came from”, despite the fact that she was born in America. Fatimah and her younger sister have also had strangers demand that they remove their hijabs, an experience that Muslim women across the country have faced, especially in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump. Perhaps the most important point that Fatimah made was that being a Muslim is not synonymous with being a terrorist, and that Islam is the only major religion in the world that faces this stigma despite the fact that violence is not bound nor determined by religious creed. She believes that everyone should be accepted as an American as long as they follow the Constitution and just like we don’t judge all Christians based on the actions of the KKK, Muslims should not be judged by those of terrorists.  Fatimah ended her talk with a message: that the diversity of the American people is what makes America great.

Sofiya Rubenova, a sophomore Political Science and Public Policy & Public Service major, was born in Tajikistan but because of her looks she often isn’t seen as an immigrant. Sofiya feels very lucky to live in the U.S. and is thankful for the opportunities she has because her parents moved here.

In closing, moderator Cynthia Bogard, Chair, Department of Sociology, observed how interesting it was that Fatimah, whose grandparents immigrated here, faces discrimination while Sofiya, an immigrant, does not based solely on appearances and people’s perceptions.

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