More than 1,500 people attend ‘United We Stand’ immigration seminar

More than 1,500 people attend ‘United We Stand’ immigration seminar

More than 1,500 people attended a “United We Stand” event Sunday at the Monona Terrace. The event was in response to President Donald Trump’s executive actions on immigration. The president’s orders barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens from some Muslim countries from entering the United States for now. Trump also took action last week on sanctuary cities, which many consider Madison to be.

Attendees representing various faiths, ages and ethnicities packed into the Monona Terrace to hear from elected officials, lawyers and other community and ethnic leaders speak on Trump’s executive orders.

“We want to live in communities that we can freely practice our faiths and be who we are,” Sufyan Sohel, a panelist representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.

The crowd included Newsha Tavakoli a 26-year-old Iranian woman, who now works at Epic after getting an engineering degree in the United States. Her husband still lives in Iran and she fears that if she visits him she’ll never be able to return to United States.

“I thought I was coming here for better education, better freedom, I never thought something like this would happen,” she said of Trump’s orders. “I wouldn’t have come here if I knew.”

Allison Finseth, a U.S. citizen by birth, has a very different story but has similar concerns.

“This is truly horrifying and I really worry we’re on the brink of something terrible,” she said. “I want to do everything I can to keep everyone in this country safe.”

Panelists said anyone looking to effect change should call their elected officials and simply get to know your neighbor.

“We always tend to focus on the differences that separate us rather than all the similarities that we have,” Sohel said.

In that push for unity came a message of hope.

“I appreciate those things about this culture and I’d love to stay here,” Tavakoli said.

The event ran from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and was open to the public. A number of Madison community leaders including Madison police Chief Mike Koval, Mayor Paul Soglin, and alders, like Samba Baldeh, who helped organize the event, were also in attendance.