With only about 24 hours’ notice via Facebook, an estimated 300 people showed up Tuesday evening at the Islamic Center of Las Cruces to protest the policies and actions of President Donald Trump and his administration.
The biggest issue on hand at the event was Trump’s recent executive order barring citizens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan from entering the country for 90 days and suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days. The order indefinitely bans entry of those fleeing from war-torn Syria.
People who live in Las Cruces are affected. New Mexico State University says 65 students and seven employees are citizens of the nations listed in the order.
“Everyday we’ve got a new story,” said Radwan Jallad, president of the Islamic Center, at the rally. “And the last story (the travel bans) hit us, Muslim communities.”
Jallad said such rallies are important demonstrations of support for the Muslim minority by the community majority.
“The more we stand together, the more the (Muslim) community’s not going to feel like we’re not with them,” Jallad said.
Trump’s administration says the ban isn’t targeting Muslims, but Jallad believes otherwise. At the rally, which was held shortly after the sun set, Jallad was joined by Rabbi Larry Karol of Temple Beth-El and others in expressing outrage.
Karol said Trump’s ban is reminiscent of America’s isolationist practices during the early 20th Century. By about 1924, the government put limits on how many immigrants — then mostly Jews, Germans, Brits and Irishmen — could come into the country.
“I’ve seen this movie before,” Karol said. “I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now.”
Allex Luna, an organizer with N.M. Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé), said the rally was a visual representation of love.
“This fight didn’t start on Jan. 20,” he said. “It’s been going on for a lot longer. And I think people are starting to wake up and say, ‘It’s time to fight.’ And we are not going to leave anybody behind.”
A representative for U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich read a portion of a speech Heinrich gave on the Senate floor.
“Like many New Mexicans, I was heartsick by what I see as an attempt to fundamentally change our American values,” Heinrich said in the speech. “We are not a country that discriminates based on how you pray. We are not a nation that turns our back on the innocent victims of terrorism or the allies who risk their own lives so that American soldiers might live.”
Las Cruces Mayor Pro Tem Greg Smith, the only elected official at the rally, praised Las Cruces’ diversity and willingness to band together. He also cited the importance of the First Amendment allowing for the practice or non-practice of any religion.
A woman who helped organize the rally, Jan Thompson, said she’s putting together a “sacred resistance and rapid response” team of volunteers.
“When I.C.E. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) shows up at somebody’s house and they call us for assistance, we will show up,” she said. “If the mosque calls us for assistance, we will show up. When busloads of people are being taken to the airport for deportation, we will disrupt their route.”
Additional executive orders and actions related to immigration and other controversial topics may come. Jallad pledged the Muslim community in Las Cruces will support any other minority group — such as the LGBTQ community, the Mexican community and the Jewish community — that faces the discrimination Jallad believes Muslims are facing now.
“We will stand with them,” he said.