President Donald Trump’s executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, and indefinitely suspending the Syrian refugee program, was restrained by a federal judge in Seattle a week after it was signed. Last week, the restraining order was contested in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, but the order was upheld.
Since the signing of the executive order, the Boston College community has seen reactions from both students and administrators. On Jan. 29, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. sent out an email denouncing the executive order. The Muslim Students Association, with more than 30 other student groups’ support, held a protest on Feb. 3 to rejecting the ban and stand in solidarity with affected members of the BC community. The Student Assembly of the Undergraduate Government of BC also passed a resolution calling for BC to provide free housing to affected students, faculty, and staff during breaks.
Leslie Templeton, MCAS ’20, upon hearing about the travel ban, also began to worry about how affected students would find housing over breaks. She created a Google form to help students find housing over the breaks.
“Not only should they receive housing, but actually going to a family, for mental health reasons, just feeling like you have someone to go talk to, and just creating a family environment,” Templeton said.
She has created two Google Forms, one for people to offer their houses up to affected students or faculty over breaks, and another for students or faculty who are seeking a home.
“People are scared to leave,” she said. “And when you’re that scared, you also need a support system here. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
With a team of 10 students, five from BC, including Templeton, the Google Forms have seen around 45 responses from people who are offering up their homes to affected students, and two responses from students at BC looking for housing and families in the U.S. over breaks.
Templeton reached out to administrators at Vanderbilt University and Georgetown University to spread the word to their students and faculty. While she has received minimal responses from both universities, Templeton is just thankful that someone at both schools knows about her program if anyone needs it.
So far, families all across the nation have offered up their houses to accommodate those affected by the ban who are scared to return home. From Illinois to New York to North and South Carolina, families in nine states have volunteered housing for up to 60 people. Templeton wants students who are uncomfortable with leaving the country to be able to pursue internships anywhere in America without being concerned about housing.
“I’ve talked to a couple of people who are from countries like Bolivia and other places in Central America and Mexico, and they’re scared to go home, too,” Templeton said. “People are scared that they won’t be able to get back into the country.”
Templeton is now focusing her efforts on the BC administration. She plans to reach out to various BC administrators in the Office of Residential Life and University Counseling Services to spread the word about her initiative.
So far, she has posted the Google Form for those seeking housing on BC class Facebook pages and has sent the Google Form to eight professors to spread the word about the program to faculty who are affected by the ban.
The form for those seeking housing asks students their preferred location, alternative locations, health and dietary accommodations, gender, and contact information. The form for those offering up their houses ask for how many people they are willing to take in, whether they can accommodate disabilities and dietary restrictions, contact information, address, current living situation, and gender preference. Both forms take about five minutes to fill out.
“As of now, we’re just getting houses to sign up,” Templeton said. “In the future we’ll do phone interviews and stuff like that—get the two parties in contact, that kind of thing.”
While the ban is suspended right now, Templeton has not slowed her outreach efforts.
“Right now, because Trump is saying he’s going to fight [the court decision to uphold the restraining order on the travel ban], with the infamous tweet, ‘SEE YOU IN COURT…,’ we still want to keep it up and running,” Templeton said.
Templeton intends to keep the program running until there is nothing for international students to worry about, in terms of getting back into the country. Even if the travel ban is ultimately scrapped by the Supreme Court, Templeton hopes to mold her current program into something that can still be beneficial to people around the country—homeless students, students in abusive households, etc.
“This is about making sure students have a home to go to, no matter what,” Templeton said.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor