Roughly 30 students gathered in the Fine Arts Building on Tuesday night for an “Emergency Take Action” meeting to discuss local politics.
The event was hosted by the Roosevelt Institute at Binghamton University, a branch of a national policy think-tank that aims to empower students by teaching them about public policy and how to advocate for change in the local community.
At the Take Action event, students were preparing to support the Welcoming Cities Resolution that was debated at Wednesday’s Binghamton City Council meeting, which is designed as a symbolic gesture to show refugees and immigrants in the Binghamton area that they are welcome and an important part of the community.
Brianna Cea, president of the Roosevelt Institute and a sophomore double-majoring in political science and philosophy, politics and law, said that the event was designed to encourage students to get further involved in local politics.
Students attending the event discussed their course of action for the council meeting and made signs in support of the resolution. Signs bore messages such as “Binghamton stands with refugees,” “Diversity is strength” and “Our city, our friends.” Cea said that the event was personal for her, as one side of her family immigrated here from Thailand, and the other has been here since the colonial era.
“As a student, I have friends who are students from other countries and I know professors who are living in Binghamton that are immigrants,” Cea said. “One of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence, and for me, that means that it is my duty as a citizen to stand up for those coming here in search of a better life.”
The resolution was proposed by City Councilman Conrad Taylor, a junior majoring in political science. Taylor was present at the Take Action event and said that the resolution was a declaration of support to refugees.
“The resolution is nonbinding and has virtually no legislative power,” Taylor said. “However, it does have significant symbolic power for our community. I’ve spent so much time at organizations like the American Civic Association, the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier and others, and they are all desperately looking for their local leaders to come to their defense in light of what we are seeing at the national level.”
Attendees such as Renee Berkowitz, a sophomore double-majoring in psychology and anthropology, felt that the Take Action event was a good way for students to get involved in community politics.
“I know it’s very important for us as students to try and make a difference,” Berkowitz said. “We’re not here for a very long time, but it is important for us to care while we are in Binghamton.”
Other attendees said they went to the Take Action event because it represented values they strongly believed in. Margaret Leisenheimer, a sophomore majoring in theatre, said that refugees coming to the United States are skilled, ready to start a new life and should be welcomed into the Binghamton community.
“Welcoming refugees into our country would be a great way to help them and help ourselves,” Leisenheimer said. “I will be calling my legislators, doing a lot of research and going to as many protests as I can to stand in solidarity with refugees.”
Taylor said that the fight for the resolution was meaningful for all members of the Binghamton community, including students, refugees and immigrants. The resolution was discussed on Wednesday evening, but no vote has been scheduled.