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Texas A&M students attend protest at Abbott’s residence

Austin+protests
Photo by Shahd Elbushra
Austin protests

AUSTIN — Chants such as “Two, four, six, eight, Texas doesn’t stand for hate” and “Give them jobs, give them home, refugees are not alone” rang out across Wooldridge Park in Austin as hundreds protested Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in Texas.
Abbott sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Nov. 16 stating Texas will not accept Syrian refugees due to concerns over insufficient screenings. Abbott’s letter joined 29 others penned by state governors expressing their unwillingness to open state borders to resettle the Syrian refugees the federal government intends to bring overseas from the Middle Eastern conflict.
The action came a few days after the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, in which 129 people were killed by terrorists associated with the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. One of the terrorists reportedly was able to enter France by claiming to be a Syrian refugee.
Several Texas A&M students joined the masses of people involved in Sunday’s protests. Davis Land, a telecommunication media studies junior at A&M, said the showing was intended to send the message to Gov. Abbott that there are Texans who welcome refugees.
“While state governors cannot actually refuse refugees, they are in control of the federal funds that get sent to states to help refugees,” Land said.  “Abbott can make refugees lives hell in Texas, so I think this group has assembled to make a statement to say that Texas welcomes refugees, and we welcome refugees having a safe haven here and having just as good as a life as anyone.”
A&M political science and international studies graduate student Jessica Cone attended the protest as well. She said she thinks fear played a large role in the governor’s decision.
“Fear doesn’t help any of us,” Cone said. “Fear is what they want. The more of these poor refugees who need the most in the world that we turn away, that’s going to keep the cycle going and we have a moral responsibility to accept these poor souls that need a place to go.”
English senior James Leaf said both the United States and Europe should allow more refugees into their countries and need more policy changes.
“The majority of refugees are in countries in the Middle East,” Leaf said. “The number of refugees in Europe and the United States doesn’t even come close, so it’s kind of shameful that these ‘western democracies’ who claim to be pro-human rights and peace and equality are making it so difficult for people to get into their countries and enjoy their lives.”
Back in College Station, other A&M students are against accepting Syrian refugees into Texas.
Among these students, technology management junior Reese Godwin said there are other ways to help the refugees and letting them into the country may not be the best idea.   
“I feel that anyone who enters this country illegally, there’s generally a background check and we know who they are and their past. I know that it’s extremely hard for us to do that with these refugees,” Godwin said.
Shelby Wallace said there are enough struggling Americans to focus on helping Syrian refugees.
“If we can’t manage to take care of people in our own population — there are homeless people on the streets, there are veterans that served our country and we can’t seem to help them,” Wallace said. “Why are we so gung-ho about helping people like the Syrian refugees when we can’t even help our own people? So I think we should help our own people and be at least be proactive about that before we can even help people from other countries.”

Still Land said he saw a lot of support from Aggies for the event on social media.

 

“I think maybe 16,000 people were invited and 2,000 to 3,000 said they were going and 6,000 said they were interested,” Land said. “Even though those numbers weren’t hit, I think the show of support means something and shows that there are a lot of Texans willing to offer safe havens for refugees.”

 

Even though the number of people interested on social media didn’t match the number of protesters Leaf said he thinks the protest turned out well overall.

 

“It could’ve been bigger; it could always be bigger,” Leaf said. “But, I think it was really nice to see people coming from further than just Austin to support.”

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