Students and professors across the country are calling for their schools to become "sanctuary campuses" for undocumented immigrants, in a creative form of resistance to the xenophobic policies of the incoming Trump administration.
Inside Higher Ed reports that thousands of people have signed petitions urging their campuses to protect undocumented students, who will likely be at increased risk of deportation under the strict anti-immigration policies of President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump has promised to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants and to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants temporary relief to hundreds of thousands of undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children.
"Immigrant youth who had a dream fought for and won DACA against all odds, and our communities won't be intimidated by Trump even as he threatens to take it away," said Thais Marquez, an undocumented student and organizer with Movimiento Cosecha (Harvest Movement), in a statement Tuesday. "We're calling on our classmates and our neighbors to stand for what's right and grow a network of support for immigrants on our campuses and beyond. Millions of immigrants do crucial work that makes the American economy run, and we need the support of our country's churches, community centers, and homes as places of sanctuary against deportation too."
A petition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) made these requests:
- Guarantee student privacy by refusing to release information regarding the immigration status of our students and community members. Refuse to comply with immigration authorities regarding deportations or raids.
- Assign a specific office and specific administrators who will assist our DACA students and other students who lack the privilege of citizenship on a strictly confidential basis.
- Guarantee that this same office shall be charged with pursuing funding for all students who lack citizenship.
- Guarantee in-state tuition to students previously awarded DACA recipients.
- Assure that all students receive a campus, classroom, and community experience free of hostilities, aggressions, and bullying by publicizing the campus-wide anonymous reporting mechanism, training all staff and faculty in de-escalation intervention techniques, and expanding the Safe Rides and Safe Walks program (training all assistants in bias events).
"Given what is on the horizon...there needs to be a clear message sent to our immigrant students that UIUC is going to be a sanctuary," Gilberto Rosas, an associate professor at the university and a co-author of the petition, told Inside Higher Ed.
María Blanco, executive director of the University of California Undocumented Legal Services Center, spoke with the news outlet:
"There are at least three kinds of different things that could fall under a sanctuary policy," Blanco said. "One is a university saying that ICE will not come on their campus to do immigration enforcement without warrants unless there’s an exigent circumstance." A second, she said, is developing a policy that says a university police force will not act on behalf of federal agents to enforce immigration laws. A third, she said, involves information sharing—"to the extent that universities have any records that identify the immigration status of their students, to protect those if there were a request from ICE for those records."
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"I think that what the students will be requesting are actually things that are doable, that don't put the university at any kind of risk in terms of their federal funding," Blanco said.
A similar petition making the rounds at Oberlin College in Ohio read, "Making Oberlin College a sanctuary campus supports these local efforts and demonstrates our commitment to support some of the most vulnerable members in our community."
Oberlin itself became a sanctuary city in 2009.
Shelley Lee, an associate professor at Oberlin College, who helped organize the letter, told Inside Higher Ed, "We wanted to take a moral stand on this issue very quickly and to urge the administration to take the steps to make a meaningful institutional response to this very uncertain situation in which very vulnerable members of our college and university community could potentially be targeted."
Meanwhile, students throughout the state of Indiana are planning walkouts for Wednesday afternoon to show their support for initiatives at their campuses. The walkouts are set to take place at Illinois University (IU) Bloomington and South Bend, IUPUI (Indianapolis), the University of Notre Dame, Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana State University, and DePauw University, local media reports.
In the week after Trump's shocking win, minority students reported an increase in harassment, verbal assaults, and physical attacks.
"Throughout this week, we have been seeing a lot of writing on campus about derogatory things to minorities," organizer Hector Morales told Fox 59 on Wednesday. "We are trying to accomplish, to tell IUPUI students [you] are not alone and we are going to come together to fix this problem."
Petition organizers released an unofficial map of schools being called on to become sanctuary campuses.