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UW students draft a petition against a bill to ban Palestinians from the U.S.

Palestinian UW student Abdalrahim Abuwarda.
Melodie Edwards
UW Palestinian student Abdalrahim Abuwarda, along with the MENA Club, are collecting signatures for a petition to vote down the Safeguarding Americans from Extremism bill.

A group of University of Wyoming (UW) students is collecting signatures for a petition to convince Wyoming’s U.S. congressional delegation to vote against a billrecently introduced in congress by Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke. It would expel Palestinians living in the U.S. and prohibit others from entering.

Palestinian student Abdalrahim Abuwarda is attending UW on a Fulbright scholarship, but is worried that, if the bill passed, he would be forced to leave. Abuwarda said eliminating Palestinian voices in the U.S. would worsen the conflict.

“It deprives the U.S. from an opportunity to have different points of view about the whole conflict,” he said. “You don't need only to listen to one side of the narrative. Even if you don't want to believe it, or if you don't want to support it, you just need to have different perspectives and point of views.”

Abuwarda said he believes Wyoming’s delegation will be receptive to the petition because the state is known for its live and let live attitude.

“Wyoming has been known for its neutrality, when it comes to conflict, especially in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe this role of neutrality should stay the same. We don't want Wyoming to be biased, so we are writing a letter to explain to them the violation that this bill would create when it comes to human rights and refugee rights in the United States. And we are trying to get signatures from the Wyoming locals, so that it can strengthen the letter.”

Abuwarda said, if the bill passed and Palestinians are expelled, Wyomingites wouldn’t be able to hear first person accounts of how the war is affecting people like him.

Right now, he said he lives in terror because his wife and three small children are living in a house in close proximity to an area where heavy bombing is occuring.

“The voices, the noise, the bombings are super, super loud,” Abuwarda said. “They are terrifying. Today, my wife told me the kids are hugging her so tight, and they are shivering. My kids are so young, they are six years, three years, and one and a half years old. And they still don't understand the whole thing about war and stuff. It terrifies them.”

In the north, his parents are also a half mile away from shelling. He could hear blasts in his most recent call home.

“I couldn't hear my fathers voice due to the bombing,” Abuwarda said. “I know my father. He's a very tough man. He's a strong man and I have never heard him crying. But he was crying that last time.”

Abuwarda along with UW’s Middle Eastern North African Club are planning to send their petition to Washington D.C. when they reach 30-40 signatures.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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