GPC holds “Call-Congress” event to voice concerns on recent immigration executive order

GPC President Rachel Bauer: “There are really no qualifications for having your voice heard."

GPC President Rachel Bauer counts the number of sticky notes from the #DontBanMe Call-Congress event. Each note represented one call. As of 2 p.m., Bauer said she counted over 225 individuals who had participated in the event.

About three hours into Wednesday’s “Call-Congress” event, Graduate Professional Council President Rachel Bauer counted over 225 post-it notes that had been tacked to a board in the Student Center.

Each post-it note represented a phone call made by individuals to Missouri representatives in an effort urging politicians to respond to the recent executive order banning immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

“We are providing an opportunity for individuals to speak in opposition of the executive order if they so choose,” GPC President Rachel Bauer said.

The event is part of a nationwide campaign called #DontBanMe, under the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. As of the 2015-16 academic year, over 17,000 students from the seven countries attended American universities, according to the Institute of International Education.

Based on fall 2016 data, 138 MU students are citizens of those countries, according to previous Maneater reporting.

GPC set up a booth on the first floor of the Student Center, where anyone was able to stop by. The council provided a call script with guidance on what to say, a quiet room and the phone numbers of representatives individuals could contact. Students could call representatives in Missouri as well as in their home states.

Bauer said there is no specific requirement for callers, and they can call whenever they want.

“Anyone can call, email or talk to their representatives at any time,” Bauer said. “There are really no qualifications for having your voice heard.”

Graduate student Jacqueline Flores had a personal connection to the effort. Although Flores was born in the U.S., her parents immigrated from the Phillipines.

“If there was ever a list and my parents couldn’t make it, I wouldn’t be here,” Flores said.

Flores said she was nervous because she had not called congressional offices before, but she said the process was easy and necessary. She called both the D.C. and local offices of Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.

Flores said the phone calls were brief.

“It wasn’t really a conversation per se because it’s not the actual congressman or woman; it’s just a representative for the representative,” Flores said. “They’ll just ask you who you are and what you think and then wish you a good day.”

GPC Director of National Affairs Kevin Kaifer said the event was initially geared toward student debt.

“We felt like it was urgent to call for action on this event,” Kaifer said. “So we decided to change Call-Congress day from graduate student debt to ‘Don’t ban me,’ specifically encouraging the Missouri delegations to override the executive order.”

Kaifer said it is important to understand the role international students play in the U.S.

“These students are important for our economy, for our job market, for us maintaining our leadership in the realm of global education,” Kaifer said.

Edited by Kyle LaHucik | klahucik@themaneater.com

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