As rush hour arrives in downtown Columbia, cars honk in response to protesters filling the sidewalks with their signs at the ready: We are All Immigrants, Humanity has No Borders, and Spread the Love. Protesters are here in response to President Trump's recent ban on refugees and travel restrictions on seven predominantly Muslim countries. Cooper McKim reports the protest drew passion as well as skepticism.
As the sun went down, protesters settled in front of the state house as the first speaker stood up. "We're here today because of the actions last week when the administration announced an executive order that would suspend and curtail refugee resettlement in the U.S.," said David Batos, one of the organizers of the event South Carolina Welcomes Refugees.
Batos and other speakers believe the action is unconstitutional as well as detrimental to current international residents. For example, an Iranian student named Amir-Ali Javadinia pursuing his Ph. D. in Business Administration at the University of South Carolina. His wife was removed from her return flight to the United States after the executive order.
Javadinia says "all we want is just being together and she won't make you any trouble." His wife had been out of the country for three months defending her thesis.
One of his friends Hessam Abdollahi is an Iranian student at USC. He's also frustrated with the restrictions on travel: "We are helping American science and technology to progress. We are devoting ourselves to this community and when we see this from the officials from this country, it's disappointing."
On the outskirts of the march, two USC undergraduate students say they think the ban will help curtail terrorism. Michael Haley says it's clear the current system isn't working, "so until we can know who we're getting, if they're safe or not, if they're part of ISIS for example, I think that we need to sort of clarify some of those things and pause it for now, and reinstate things when we know it's safe."
Lutheran Services Carolina reports resettling 239 refugees across South Carolina last year. Future resettlement has been put on hold.