Trinity Hosts Talk by International Refugee Assistance Project Policy Counsel

Foydel Speaks about Trump’s Travel Ban and the Worldwide Refugee Crisis

​Hartford, Connecticut, October 13, 2017—International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) Policy Counsel Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Foydel recently brought the ongoing national discussion about President Donald Trump’s travel restrictions to Trinity College, where she delivered a lecture called “Refugees and Immigrants at Risk: The Trump Era.”

​International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) Policy Counsel Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Foydel speaks at Trinity College.
During her Common Hour talk in Mather Hall’s Terrace Rooms on October 3, Foydel provided background information regarding the legal definition of a refugee and discussed recent issues faced by refugees. She offered statistics about the number of displaced individuals (65+ million), refugees (roughly 21 million), and stateless people (10 million), and spoke about how the United States alone has resettled more than half of them. Foydel said that Trump’s executive order is the most recent version of policies aimed at people from Muslim countries that further complicate what she sees as a world-wide refugee crisis. “Trump put no end-date on this policy, so there is no sunset date for this ban,” said Foydel. She said that what is jeopardized is “access to social services by people who may not have a legal status or do, but their minority status gives them a fear of discrimination or deportation.”

Foydel explained what IRAP is doing to assist refugees and how concerned members of the Trinity community can help. She said that IRAP advocates on the “congressional, state, local, and individual level to bridge the gap between refugee/asylum work and general immigration work.” She encouraged the Trinity community to become involved by “calling your elected representatives, from senators and congress people to your mayor’s office and school board, writing op-eds for local newspapers, volunteering with refugee resettlement agencies, creating a welcoming environment on campus, and holding one-on-one conversations with your own network of friends, family, classmates, co-workers, and neighbors.”

​(Left-right) Elizabeth Foydel with Trinity panelists Mazin Khalil ’15 and Christopher Carter ’19. Photos by Noelle Lucien 20.
Panelists Christopher Carter ’19 and Public Policy Program graduate student Mazin Khalil ’15 shared their own experiences regarding immigration policies and laws. Last semester, Carter was able to work with a Syrian refugee family that the Trinity community is sponsoring and taught them necessary skills such as improved English proficiency and how to use the bus system. Carter said, “My mom is an immigrant also, which is why I was so motivated to help them.”

Khalil, a member of the Nubian community between central Sudan and southern Egypt, came to the United States as an immigrant. “I developed my activism for Nubia and Nubian rights after I came to the U.S. and learned of what was going on back home to my people,” he said. Khalil spoke about how, due to his activism, he may be detained and questioned if he returns. He said that many people have experienced these issues while travelling.

There seems to be a misconception that refugees are not educated,” Khalil added. “However, Syria and Iraq have 100-percent literacy rates, and are high-class individuals who have degrees from back home that go unrecognized.” As individuals, Khalil believes we can rise above stereotypes and become a more understanding country. “Always ask about immigrants’ backgrounds and stories, and that dialogue is the starting point,” he said. “We should come to dialogue with open minds instead of preconceived notions and from there, look at different organizations on campus to become involved.”

As part of the Urban Justice Center, IRAP is based in New York and Lebanon and represents refugees throughout their entire legalization process until their resettlement process in the United States. Its mission states, “IRAP organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons.” Its employees and volunteers work with clients from all over the world and advocate in numerous ways for their clients including “forming relationships with relevant administrative agencies within the executive branch of the U.S. government, impacting litigation to set legal precedents, and utilizing their field offices and their relationships on the ground, such as with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).”

For more information about IRAP or Urban Justice Center, click here.

This event was hosted by the Women & Gender Resource Action Center (WGRAC) and co-sponsored by the Office of Community Service & Civic Engagement, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Department of Political Science, Model United Nations, the Trinity College Chapel, and Amnesty International. WGRAC student staff Anna Lee ’20 and Elisabed Gedevanishvili ’20 assisted with the event’s promotion.

Written by Dana Martin ’18