By Alyssa Anaya
Moussa Sy, a 21-year-old environmental science major at HSU is on a scholarship. He spends a lot of his time in the library studying or working at his on campus job. He gets taxes taken out of his paycheck like every American does. He plays sports for HSU. He is also Muslim.
Sy came from Mali almost eight years ago. Sy is a student who has personally felt the impact of the travel ban because of his religion. Sy recalls on the day he first heard of the travel ban, notoriously known as the Muslim ban.
“Deep inside I felt like something was taken from me,” Sy says. “Like I’ve been violated. I felt shame.”
As a black Muslim in America with this political climate, it can be a scary time. There is an unfortunate struggle that many Americans will never have to face that those affected by immigration have to deal with. The visa Sy has only gives him three months to find a job in relations to his major after he graduates. Otherwise, he will have to go back to his country. This isn’t an easy task. From a poll in 2015 conducted by AfterCollege, only 14 percent of college graduates had jobs lined up after graduation.
“Being black and Muslim, I have to be better than the average,” says Sy. “Everything is against me.”
Sy agrees that immigration is a problem for every nation and every nation has their rights to deal with it however they believe. But he also identifies a problem with the labelling and the way recent immigration laws seem to target very specific groups of people.
“Jobs immigrants take are jobs that Americans won’t take,” says Sy. “You can’t insult honest people. Calling them illegal. That name kills me.”
Sy also wants there to be a better understanding of the reasons why so many people from other countries come to America. Specifically those countries targeted by the travel ban. He believes that Americans have to look at both sides. He talks about how there are children starving and dying that do not necessarily want to leave everything behind, but they want to be away. They want opportunity and knowledge. He also addressed just how mean some people can be and those that don’t want immigrants to succeed.
“You learn from it,” Sy says. “Become stronger. The best way to get back at them is to succeed. Get your education. Nobody can take my education from me.”
Sy remains hopeful and has a strong sense of pride towards his accomplishments. His mindset reminds him that despite his background and beliefs, he will overcome.
“Skin doesn’t matter,” Sy says. “Diversity is the best thing ever. Without diversity there is nothing.”
Rayleen Alafa, 20-year-old sociology major at HSU, says that although she is not Muslim herself she has seen the discrimination her grandmother faced.
“My grandma has been called names and denied service whenever she’s been in other states,” Alafa says. “She was even detained and questioned once. They asked her what her religion was. She told me how scared she was and she didn’t understand why she had to be questioned because she was the only one who was pulled aside.”
Alafa said that there is a very flawed approach to immigration in America. She agrees with Sy and the way he mentioned education as a way to achieve. She said that the very least people can do is become educated and welcoming towards cultures that aren’t necessarily like them.
“People have created these ideas of what immigrants are,” Alafa says. “We hear words like lazy, rapists, terrorists, and extremists. We as a whole, a unit, need to educate ourselves and others.”
She says she likes to look at it all with a sociological approach and that we have to understand why people think the way they do.
“It’s important to remember people have been raised a particular way,” says Alafa. “We have to help people unlearn their internal racism and unnecessary fears.”
Sy discussed education and how important it is in order to succeed. Especially as a minority. Thomas Ramos, a 19-year-old Arcata native agrees. He believes that it is this generation’s job to educate future generations in order to create a better future for this generation.
“We as a collective need to educate people. We need to debunk his [Trump’s] misogynistic and xenophobic ideologies and make them realize women and minority groups are people too.” Ramos says a lot of these mindsets that ignite fear of immigrants comes from ignorance.
“When I would see the negative praise on social media, I would get angry. However, I realize that these people believe these things because they are ignorant and they were raised believing these things.”
Ramos also believes that there has to be strong solidarity among all minorities, not just those affected by immigration laws and travel bans.
“Because so many communities are being affected we can all stand in solidarity with one another and fight together,” says Ramos. “I believe intersectionality will be our ticket to freedom.”