As fear grows over the possible drastic immigration moves by the incoming Trump administration, a groundswell movement is spreading around the Bay Area and across the country with petitions signed by students, faculty and alumni at colleges and universities to turn the institutions into “sanctuary campuses.”
The worry by many is that federal immigration enforcement officials could soon swoop onto college campuses to apprehend and deport immigrant students. And a budding student movement, stretching from St. Mary’s College and Stanford University to East Coast Ivy League schools, is answering the threat with a call of its own: Our school administrators must protect our at-risk students by turning campuses into safe spaces.
“Given what is on the horizon, the promise [by Trump] to deport up to three million people, not to mention the recent history of deportation and detention already occurring in the United States, there needs to be a clear message sent to our immigrant students that UIUC is going to be a sanctuary,” said Gilberto Rosas, an associate professor in the departments of anthropology and Latina/Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Rosas is the co-author of a petition that, among other requests, asks Illinois’ administration to “guarantee student privacy by refusing to release information regarding the immigration status of our students and community members” and to “refuse to comply with immigration authorities regarding deportations or raids.”
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region already finely attuned to the immigration issues raised to a high-profile during the 2016 presidential election, students are aggressively demanding that their college administrators do something and do it fast. And the petition drive is unfolding against a backdrop of college and even high-school protests to raise awareness of the threat that many Hispanic students now face.
At Stanford on Tuesday, Dominique Reliford, an 18-year-old psychology major from Hayward, was demonstrating as part of Stanford’s Filipino-American Student Union. She said the Stanford protest was not completely about being anti-Trump but “to share a message of healing and love for each other in these hard times.”
Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Ann Lapin said that about 500 students, faculty and staff members walked peacefully around campus at 11:45 a.m. Students marched to White Plaza, shouting, “This is what democracy looks like.”
Speakers called for the university to become a sanctuary for “students, staff, and their family members who face imminent deportation” under Trump.
“We believe Stanford has an obligation to protect all undocumented workers when threatened by the presence of ICE officials and deportations,” organizer Solveij Praxis said in the release. “Stanford must promote the sanctuary campus model by directly calling upon colleges across the country to agree to students’ demands for sanctuary status.”
Reliford said the university needs to take action.
“It’s not easy to be a non-white, non-Christian, non-straight person in this country,” Reliford said. “So we want to empower each other and show the university that they need to be responsible for us.”
More than 1,000 signatures have been added to a petition recently circulated around campus calling on the school to provide sanctuary.
In the East Bay, students and faculty at St. Mary’s College in Moraga weighed in on the subject of Trump and his immigration policies by sending a letter this week to the college president requesting he make St. Mary’s a sanctuary. The letter was signed by dozens of students, staff and faculty and delivered Tuesday. Many students supported the effort.
“I think it’s nice to have something that sends a message that we’re a community we’re together,” student Kyla Cole said.
The letter asks St Mary’s administration to investigate with urgency what it would take to make the campus a sanctuary for its community members who face imminent deportation. It cited some students and their family members who live in fear of the consequences of a Trump presidency.
The St. Mary’s administration responded to the letter Tuesday night by saying they take the safety of all community members seriously.
Those deep concerns were reflected in demonstrations all week around the nation. A petition at Oberlin College that according to organizers had garnered more than 2,300 signatures by Monday afternoon calls on the college “to stand with other colleges and universities and investigate how to make Oberlin a sanctuary campus that will protect our community members from intimidation, unfair investigation and deportation” in light of the outcome of last week’s election.
“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,” Shelley Lee, an associate professor of history and comparative American studies at Oberlin and one of the organizers of the letter, told a reporter for Inside Higher Ed.
According to the online publication, more than 20 such petitions calling on administrators to take action to make their institutions “sanctuary campuses” have circulated through social media since the presidential election. And like the anti-war protests of the 1960s, the sanctuary concept has quickly garnered support among students, faculty and others who are looking for effective ways to help individuals fearful of being deported or losing other opportunities under a Trump presidency.
— RickLeventhalFoxNews (@RickLeventhal) November 16, 2016
The president-elect has vowed to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, through which more than 700,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children have obtained temporary relief from deportation. These immigrants have also received the right to work under DACA.
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