In the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 16, a bus of immigrants arrived at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. This bus was sent from Texas on the order of Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott, according to a tweet on his own Twitter account on Nov. 15.
Arjun Sethi, a first-year undecided humanities major sympathized with the situation of this group of recent immigrants given his background as an international student.
“I think it’s wrong to displace people who are simply trying to get into this country for a better chance at succeeding. I think the college communities are able to support and help the immigrants in need but I think the city itself is questionable in its ability to support those in need,” Sethi said.
While Philadelphia is a sanctuary city, it is also home to numerous colleges and universities that have a predominant population of international students and immigrant workers. In fact, Drexel is home to approximately 3,500 international students from more than 120 countries.
“I think most people think, ‘that’s not me.’ Most of the students at Drexel are not here out of refugeeship or political crisis. That said, there’s a lot of instability in the U.S. and many Drexel students and their families could be affected in the future, so some people are paying attention to how the United States handles refugee cases, in particular,” said Associate Professor and graduate faculty member of Communication, Culture and Media Rachel Reynolds.
Despite the proximity to campus, this issue can feel far away to many students. The majority of immigrants that were brought into center city from Texas are refugees or those seeking asylum in America from political and social unrest in their home countries’.
“The people who are leaving Venezuela are the majority of people crossing the border right now and this sudden en masse movement of people, including families with their children, reflects a genuine international political crisis. Venezuela is a collapsing state, and like other collapsing states–Syria, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq–refugees are one of the main outcomes. Most of the students at Drexel are not here out of refugeeship or political crisis,” Reynolds said.
According to Reynolds, fifty immigrants arriving in a city of one million people can only be seen as a political attention-getter. While the city is currently facing a labor shortage, the new addition of displaced people could possibly boost the economy in the surrounding area. The political attention tactics used by Governor Abbott could aid Philadelphia in their labor shortage while also making a political point about the gain that an influx in immigration could bring to the economy.
For students on and around campus, the issue can seem less of a political and economic statement, and more of a story in which people who were wishing to enter the country were displaced and forced to a completely new city with little knowledge of what lies ahead.
“They’re probably scared and worried about what’s gonna happen to them,” said Ben Doan, hospitality major in the class of 2027 and international student. “It was scary as well since I knew almost nothing about this city so I had to do a lot of exploring. It was also sad to leave everything behind because it was my everything, family, friends, food, and just the comfort of home.”