Students Attend Rally for Immigrant Rights

Malahat A. Kizilbash from the non-profit organization 'Who is Hussain' speaks out to garner attention and raise activism for the migrants and detainees. Photo by Calis Lim | Mercury Staff

In an effort to show support for immigrant rights and promote activism within the community, a rally was held on Sept. 29 at the Plinth.

Organized by the non-profit ‘Who is Hussain, Texas’ the rally featured local speakers and activists advocating for the involvement of attendees in their cause.

Who is Hussain, Texas’s press liaison for the event, Azra Kazmi, talked about the necessity of activism, saying that the local members felt the border crisis made such events unavoidable. In fiscal year 2018, the number of border patrol apprehensions in the southwest increased by over 90,000 from the previous fiscal year. These immigrants, mostly comprised of families and unaccompanied minors, are being held in detention facilities which have gained national attention due to unsanitary conditions and possible abuse. In January, NBC News reported that 22 immigrants had died at U.S. detention facilities in the past two years.

“Who is Hussain’s theme this year was to help better our communities,” Kazmi said. “So we decided to do this because he inspires us to come and speak out against social injustice, and we feel this is a big crisis going on right now at the border with the detained migrant children to call for their reunification.”

Named after the 7th century Islamic leader Hussain ibn Ali, she said volunteers like her are inspired to stand against perceived injustice and oppression. On top of political activism, the organization also hosts blood drives, gathers books and distributes food to impoverished and refugee families.

“The message of Hussain is to speak up at any time whenever there is any sort of injustice going on. I think that message is for all of humanity,” Kazmi said. “So, it doesn’t matter that this is happening right here. Our organization is spread over the world, so there’s different issues and different countries. We believe that at the end of the day, all people have to help each other out in the name of humanity.”

Executive Director of the Human Rights Initiative and UTD alumni Bill Holston spoke at the rally in an effort to garner attention to the legal battle for immigrant rights. Holston provides legal services for refugees and said he gets a sense of fulfillment as an attorney in being a social activist.

    “My first asylum client was a Guatemalan woman… and I helped her get asylum and it was the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done as a lawyer over the years,” Holston said. “I became more and more passionate about the work because as I met more immigrant clients, I had a greater respect for them and found the work inspiring. Then I think sort of parallel to that, I’m a Christian and the fight against oppression and the fight for the rights of people is very central to those beliefs.”

Founded to provide legal services for people suffering human rights abuses, the Human Rights Initiative becomes involved with immigration cases. On top of his legal work towards that end, Holston said it was important to be vocal about the issues he supports.

“To be honest, what’s going on at the moment is really a human rights abuse that’s done by our country and I feel a moral responsibility to speak up about it,” Holston said. “I really never say no to an opportunity to speak to people about it. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve seen other periods where these rights were under assault, but I’ve never seen the efforts by our government to really destroy the rights of asylum seekers.”

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