GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Protesters at Stockton University called for the school to become a sanctuary campus for undocumented students during a rally and protest Monday in support of Muslim immigrants.
Kaltoum Alibrahimi, 21, of Brooklyn, New York, asked the protesters to sign a petition going around campus in support of sanctuary status.
The status is not a legal term but an affirmation by a university to provide as much protection as legally possible to undocumented students.
More than 100 students and local residents gathered in the Campus Center for the rally organized by the Student Senate in response to an executive order by President Donald Trump that indefinitely stopped the Syrian refugee program and temporarily halted immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.
Over the weekend, a federal judge suspended implementation of the ban nationwide. The suspension was upheld by another judge in San Francisco after a challenge from the White House. The White House is continuing its effort to have the ban reinstated.
The state Senate on Monday also voted on a resolution that condemns Trump’s series of executive orders that it said effectively ban Muslim travel, target “sanctuary cities” with punitive retribution, build a dividing wall on the Mexican border and attempt to usurp state and local law-enforcement to target immigrants in communities throughout the country, including New Jersey.
Sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland; Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen; and Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, the Senate resolution, SCR-143, was endorsed with a vote of 21-11.
At Stockton, protesters marched around campus, carrying signs and chanting before regrouping in front of the Campus Center.
Alibrahimi, a Moroccan-American, called for support from the administration.
“We don’t know if there are undocumented students among us, but if there are, we need to stand up for them,” she said.
Stockton President Harvey Kesselman was not present at Monday’s rally due to a previously scheduled meeting in New Brunswick, according to Maryjane Briant, spokeswoman for the college. Briant said Kesselman had planned to attend when the rally was set for Wednesday, but the date was moved.
Kesselman released a statement Jan. 30 expressing Stockton’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“Stockton University is committed to building a community that values all members of our community, and we accept our responsibility to create and preserve an environment that is free from prejudice and discrimination, and to take actions that affirm our commitment to inclusivity and diversity,” he said.
A statement Monday from Stockton said Kesselman “has several times expressed concern to the community about the order.”
Briant said Stockton has 18 faculty and staff on nonimmigrant visas and 24 students on nonimmigrant visas.
During the march, there were calls for support by passers-by, as well as dissent. Student Senate President Maryam Sarhan said she is not deterred by those in opposition to her views and that she welcomes free speech. Sarhan said she will work for action on Stockton becoming a sanctuary campus.
The rally brought together students from various backgrounds. Brian Moore, 20, of West Deptford, wore a “Love Reigns Supreme” shirt and represented the LBGTQ community at Stockton.
“We are not wrong or broken,” Moore said. “We are a proud community of Americans.
“We will continue to fight for our recognition in this country as equal and equitable citizens,” he said.
Mahalia Bazile, of the Unified Black Students Society, told the protesters to “be a voice for the voiceless.”
“Never let someone tell you you are smaller than you are,” she said. “You are loved at Stockton.”
Rawan Maarouf, 18, of Egg Harbor Township, described herself as a freshman, Arab and “unapologetically Muslim woman.” She questioned opposition to refugees from some of the most war-torn and poorest countries. Maarouf said Trump doesn’t represent her or America. She said protests like the one at Stockton on Monday are truly representative of America.
Alyse Ford, 28, of Point Pleasant, a Stockton alumnus, said she has been trying to attend as many rallys and protests as she can since Trump was elected.
“Everything he’s doing is wrong and un-American, and we have to fight back,” Ford said.
Donning blue hair and red painted nails, Jorge Tellez, 20, of Garfield, held up a sign reading “Build Bridges Not Walls.” Tellez said he came to the rally in a show of unity in opposition to policies against immigrants. He said he hopes such rallies will foster acceptance.