Nathan Rickard had never been to a College Park City Council meeting before Tuesday night.
“We’ve lived here for 14 years and this is the first time I’ve been in city hall,” the 40-year-old said. His wife, Julia Gage, said she had only come for dog licenses.
But two items regarding immigration policy on the week’s agenda led them to break their streak.
The council unanimously voted to send federal officials a letter of support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and pass a resolution condemning President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants of seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Before the meeting, Rickard said he was not sure if he was going to speak.
But when he addressed the council, he said the city’s measures on immigration were very important to him and his family, and “a big part of why we enjoy living in this community.”
“We cannot allow the laws in this country to become arbitrary enforcement subject to the whims and caprice of this president or any future president,” he said.
Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 27 barring citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the United States for 90 days in an effort to prevent terrorism. Critics have decried the order — which also suspended the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely — as a Muslim ban.
A federal judge suspended the order on Feb. 3, and an appeals court Thursday refused to reinstate the travel restrictions.
College Park resident Hena Zuberi Siddiqui called the order “a blatantly discriminatory and illegal ban on immigrants and refugees from certain countries.”
Because of it, Siddiqui said, there are members in the community who are afraid to travel and exist in public spaces.
“A friend’s daughter [wearing hijab] was told by a teacher to remove ‘that terrorist rag’,” she said, as a man in the audience cried. “This is not a fluke.”
Siddiqui said the City Council’s actions are a step in the right direction.
District 1 councilman Fazlul Kabir, who described himself as an immigrant from a majority Muslim country, said he was proud to see College Park taking a lead on immigration issues.
“I don’t think any of our neighboring cities are doing what we’re doing,” Kabir said.
Kabir also called supporting DACA “the right thing to do.”
Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program in 2012. DACA allows some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before age 16 to work and study legally for two-year intervals without the threat of deportation. DACA also allows students to receive in-state tuition at the University of Maryland. As of fall 2016, there were 113 graduate and undergraduate students attending this university under the DACA policy.
The council will send the letter expressing its support for DACA to College Park’s congressmen and other federal representatives. Mayor Patrick Wojahn said that while the letter is a small action on the national scale, it could mean a lot to College Park residents.
“College Park is a college town and we want to take care of the students,” Kabir said.