CROWN POINT — Like leaders across the world, Crown Point High School freshman Maria Jeffirs was stunned when she read about President Donald Trump's travel ban in January.

Jeffirs, 15, said she was upset about the president's executive order limiting or banning immigrants and refugees, especially the Syrian woman who was detained in Chicago Jan. 28 after traveling to the United States to help care for her cancer-stricken mother.

Nour Ulayyet, of Valparaiso, had asked her sister to come and help care for their mother. Ulayyet's sister, Sahar Algonaimi, was among those detained at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after she arrived from Saudi Arabia.

Algonaimi, a 58-year-old Syrian woman, was sent back to Saudi Arabia. Three weeks later, and after working with an attorney, she was allowed to visit.

Jeffirs said her class did not specifically discuss the travel ban or politics. She said her father, Crown Point City Court Judge Kent Jeffirs, pointed out to her the story involving the Syrian woman and that inspired her drawing.

"In my class we were learning about political geography," Jeffirs said. "We talked about placement and how boundaries are made. We talked about immigration and the population of each district in the United States.

"Our teacher asked us to create a political cartoon of our own choosing. I had some ideas in mind. I was thinking about a strong woman that everyone would recognize. I thought about the Statue of Liberty, because everyone would know her," Jeffirs said.

Two things the Statue of Liberty of Liberty represents is friendship among nations and freedom from oppression.

Historically, the Statue of Liberty is important, because it was given to the U.S. by France to celebrate America’s first 100 years as a nation. It commemorates the alliance between France and the U.S. during the Revolutionary War.

Jeffirs' drawing shows a Lady Liberty whose hand carrying the "forever torch" is hanging down and her left hand holding a message saying, "Notice of Deportation to France."

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Her crown is broken, and she stands on a base that also is broken.

"I think the travel ban was a very bad idea," said the teen who talked about her political cartoon while at home on spring break.

"I thought a lot about the woman who was initially stopped from seeing her family," she said.

"It made me think. What if that were me? What if I couldn't see my mother, my father or my brothers? This country is made up of immigrants. I just didn't understand how someone could ban families from being together.

"I understand the president is trying to prevent terrorism, but you can't assume that everyone is a terrorist based on the country that person is from, or their religion," Maria said.

Maria's mother, Calliopi Jeffirs, who is Greek, said her heart goes out to the families who were affected by the ban. "We have a vast variety of people here, and that's what this country is all about," she said.

Maria, who also is vice president of the freshman class, is very involved at school and said her favorite classes are math and biology, though she said, "biology is really hard."

Jeffirs, who wants to be an emergency room pediatric physician, participates in school plays and musicals, as well as student council, and speech and debate.

She also is involved in a new school organization called the Cure, which stands for Courtesy, Understanding and Respect for Everyone, designed to prevent bullying.


Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.