Baltimore City Community College(BCCC) is one of the many local Baltimore institutions carefully assessing developments surrounding the Trump administration’s late January executive order travel ban blocking entry of individuals from seven predominately Muslim countries as well as the administration’s order expanding the scope of federal raids targeting illegal immigrants conducted by ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) agents this past week.

Baltimore City Commuity College Refugee Youth Project (RYP) students display some of the projects they worked on. (Courtesy photo)

Baltimore City Commuity College Refugee Youth Project (RYP) students display some of the projects they worked on. (Courtesy photo)

“During this period of uncertainty for our students, our staff and instructors will continue to provide for the educational stability of each student we touch, whether they are seeking to improve English language proficiency, become naturalized citizens or progress along their career pathway,” Douglas Weimer, director of the English Language Services and Basic Skills Program at BCCC, told the AFRO.

The campus’ nationally recognized Refugee Youth Project serves close to 100 K-12 youth from the seven Middle Eastern and North African countries included in the President’s Executive Order. The campus serves another 3,900 students each year, from both immigrant and refugee backgrounds in its English Language Services and Basic Skills program.

Kursten Pickup, coordinator of the Refugee Youth Project told the AFRO she is encouraging all her students, especially her Muslim students, to report hate crimes.  Several of the program’s students are engaged in play therapy. “A sand therapist is working with 5 Syrian youth,” Pickup said.

“This type of play therapy is meant to provide a safe place where our students can express their feelings, fears and stories by arranging miniature figures in the sand,” she said.

Trump’s executive order was signed on Jan. 27.  The same week, the President expanded the capacity of the Department of Homeland Security to target illegal immigrant beyond those with major criminal offenses.

“We continue our commitment to working closely with our neighboring colleges and universities, our elected representatives and interested parties to understand these executive orders and to make clear the value we place on allowing students, faculty and staff from all countries to learn and work with us,” BCCC President Gordon F. May said in a statement.

Catalina Rodriguez-Lima, director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, told the AFRO the Mayor plans to host a town hall meeting in collaboration with her office to ensure residents are abreast of recent federal actions and their impact on Baltimoreans.

“There’s a lot going on,” said Rodriquez-Lima. “We know that people have many questions about the travel ban and immigration enforcement and want to know the city’s position on these issues.”

More than 2,000 refugees were resettled in Maryland in 2016, according to World Relief, an International refugee resettlement organization headquartered in Baltimore. Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of Congo represented the largest populations.

On Feb. 9, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit denied the Federal Government’s request to lift the temporary restraining order.  New York, Massachusetts and Virginia have joined Washington State in taking legal action against the President’s travel ban.

Maryland attorney general Brian E. Frosh (D) has also gone on record opposing the Travel Ban.

“I condemn the President’s executive orders and commit to use my authority to fight discrimination and hate,” Frosh posted on Twitter.

Amelia Chassé, deputy communications director for Maryland Governor Hogan, expressed the Governor’s concern about the alarming manner in which travel ban enforcements and immigrant sweeps have been carried out.

“The governor appreciates and supports actions to make America safer, but it must be done in a manner consistent with American values,” Chasse said in a statement.

The Department of Homeland Security indicated recent raids were authorized in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, the Los Angeles area, North Carolina and South Carolina.  However, advocates for illegal immigrants claim the stepped-up enforcement extends to scores of communities outside of these targeted regions and have caused apprehension and fear in immigrant communities.

“We know people are concerned and we will respond,” said Rodriguez-Lima.