Augustana profs are finding their own ways to stand up the Trump travel restrictions
Augustana Professors Kim Misfeldt and Feisal Kirumira are partaking in their own self-led protests to resist the travel ban instituted by the Trump Administration.
Misfeldt, vice dean and German professor at Augustana, had been working on a paper that she was supposed to present at a conference in Houston, Texas at the beginning of February. After the travel ban became increasingly public, she made the decision to boycott the conference as a way to stand up to the travel ban.
Kirumira who was also invited to attend a conference in the United States. In his case, it was a conference about the German curriculum in North Carolina and has decided to take his own stance, which for him, is to attend the conference.
Misfeldt notes that she typically attends two conferences a year, one of which is usually in the United States. “There was a Muslim who was not allowed to go because of her passport,” said Misfeldt. “But in the end the ban wasn’t upheld so I don’t know if she made it or not.”
“The fact that the ban was not allowed doesn’t change my opinion about not going to this conference because that’s just temporary,” said Misfeldt. “Trump didn’t actually change his mind.”
Misfeldt said she made the decision to boycott the conference because she feels it’s unfair that she’d be able attend while others are turned away because of their passport, which they have no control over.
“All of those people who were Muslim, who were stopped at the airport, that day and since then, they didn’t choose their passport either,” said Misfeldt. “They didn’t choose to be born in that country and yet we’re saying it is okay. We’re saying these people should be stopped and not allowed and that makes me very angry.”
Kirumira’s position differs a lot from Misfeldt’s. “I am Muslim and so the travel ban in my opinion is just a fraction of the Islamophobia and racism that the administration is really putting in place,” said Kirumira. He added that, “if I boycott and if I stay away then that’s what he [Trump] would want.”
Kirumira said that being Muslim plays a big role in his decision to attend despite the ban. “It always plays a role because being Muslim, just like being black, always plays a role in how you are treated,” said Kirumira. “The marginalization, the Islamophobia, the racialization that is going on right now in the United States, it’s sad to say, but it is not so new to me.”
Misfeldt doesn’t think that anything specific will come from her protest, but said that “I know that boycotts work, even if they may only work a little bit each day.” She added that, “you have to be able to stand up for what you believe in.”
Kirumira hopes that there will be some direct and indirect things that come from his response. “If I make it through customs and I actually attend the conference, I expect on one hand that I will be able to bring back a lot from the work that my colleagues and I have put together,” said Kirumira.
“If I don’t make it through customs there is still a lesson to be learned because then hopefully I’ll be able to use, and other people will be able to use that very experience to really show what exactly happens when we have these kind of restrictions in place.”
Both Kirumira and Misfeldt emphasized the importance of standing up with regards to their protests and positions. “At this point I won’t travel to the United States,” said Misfeldt. “I am hoping that will change. I have another meeting in the States that I am supposed to go to in June so I am hoping that something will have changed by then.”
Kirumira said that “as professors, as teachers, in a sense we are role models and the actions we take not only impact the students but also the communities. So what we decide to do or not to do really impacts a lot of people. That’s why it is very important that we take a stand and it is important that we make it public.”