Looking lovingly toward their infant daughter, Alina, Emrullah and Amila Erul said the America of 2017 isn't what had been promised in decades of books and movies that conveyed a welcoming land.
Immigrants to the U.S. from Turkey and Bosnia, respectively, the couple said the deep unrest they feel is not something they expected to experience.
"Everything you see or read about America, it just emphasizes the freedom," said Emrullah Erul, who came to the U.S. in 2011. "Where is the freedom right now? That is the biggest question mark. ... I felt comfortable here until the election, but now I feel unsafe, and it is only the beginning."
The Erul family was among a crowd of more than a thousand people gathered on the Texas A&M University campus Monday evening, collectively voicing their defiance of President Donald Trump's recent executive orders restricting travel and barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Organized by 19-year-old Texas A&M freshman Mallory Chapman, the event featured chanting, music and a march around the campus from Rudder Plaza to the Evans Library and back.
Chapman said she hoped the event could serve as an outlet for people to share their emotions -- from fear and sadness to unease and anger -- alongside others who were feeling the same way.
While she said she was "beyond surprised" by the turnout at the event, Chapman said she wanted those who support their message to remember that they have to continue to act if they want to see change.
"What's most important is that when we see injustice being done, we need to act," Chapman said. "It can be really hard at first, but I think that is the best way that we can bring about change."
Amila Erul, who has lived in College Station since 2014, said she is proud of her community's response and the support she saw at the event for the international diversity she believes makes America what it is.
Coming to the U.S., she said she never imagined she would see "this kind of behavior" toward anyone, let alone members of her faith.
However, she was clear that the sadness she feels extends beyond the executive orders to include the Trump administration's stance on immigration as a whole.
"This is not just about Muslims," Amila Erul said. "When you start banning some kind of people from one community, it does not stop only at one. ... America is made from those varieties of people, different religions, different races, and all of them together make America. If you start taking piece by piece from America, what will be left?"
Emrullah Erul, who is pursuing his doctorate in tourism from Texas A&M, said although neither he nor his wife has come from one of the seven countries facing restrictions under the executive order, it is the principal -- and the possibility for the future -- that is important.
"It doesn't have to affect us directly, we should be in this together," Emrullah Erul said.
Kenny Easwaran, a professor of philosophy at Texas A&M, said he was shocked at how quickly recent Trump administration executive orders have been implemented.
Less than two weeks into Trump's term, Easwaran said he was particularly moved by the ban, as it was the first time he had seen one of the new administration's policies "cause harm directly to people I know."
He said while he hopes the event helps show support for those affected or who feel they might be next, he is wary of encouraging too much optimism.
"I don't want to give anyone false hope, but I want them to know that there are many people that care about them," Easwaran said.
With the new policies in place, Emrullah Erul said the U.S. joins a growing number of countries around the world -- including his native Turkey -- that have begun to see the effects of a new global trend toward conflict.
Emrullah Erul said while recent events are disheartening, he is hopeful that there is still time to change course -- particularly for the sake of his daughter and millions of other children like her.
"The world is changing, and I am worried about (my daughter's) future life," Emrullah Erul said. "Before it really starts, we just want to stop it and show that we are all in this together."