[Update: Thursday, 11/17/16, 11:19AM]
The petition demanding that Wes become a Sanctuary Campus now has over 1100 signatures!!
If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter at some point in the last week, you’ve probably seen a few postings about “sanctuary campuses” popping up here and there. After Donald J. Trump’s presidential win on a campaign platform that heavily targeted immigrants, especially those that are undocumented, there is a significant amount of unease in immigrant communities all over America. Currently, undocumented students have temporary protection from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that President Obama H’08 put into place. However, Trump is expected to repeal this executive order. What will President-elect Donald Trump’s first move be? Given how often he has changed his mind on policy issues, just how much danger are immigrants really in? How will his policies affect undocumented students? What are sanctuary campuses, and why do they matter here at Wes? Read on after the jump to find out.
This past May, students at the University of California–San Diego received attention for a large effort asking that the university ban ICE agents from being able to enter their campus, thus making it a sanctuary campus. Student groups demanded that the university provide bias training to the campus police, specialized housing for various ethnic groups and undocumented students, and additional funding for various resources necessary to those communities. In the past month, students, faculty, and alumni across the country have called upon Yale, Brown, Harvard, University of Michigan, Stanford, Oberlin, Johns Hopkins, and Wesleyan, as well as many other colleges to institute sanctuary campus protocols. While no school has been officially declared a sanctuary campus, officials at UC–Santa Barbara have said that it is “within the realm of possibility”. A Brown University spokesperson, however, stated that after consulting lawyers, the university does not think that private universities have legal protection from entry by law enforcement.
The sanctuary campus movement builds off the idea of sanctuary cities such as New York City and Berkeley, California. These cities do not cooperate with all the federal immigration enforcement policies currently in effect, such as in NYC, where law enforcement officials are not allowed to ask individuals about their documentation status. Students, as well as faculty and alumni across the nation, are asking that schools become sanctuaries for students who might face deportation during the Trump presidency. At these schools, sanctuary campus policies would prevent campus police departments from collaborating with city police departments and ICE agents. Universities are being asked to engage not just in symbolic gestures, but take concrete steps towards protecting students. If schools are deemed sanctuary campuses, they must also have protocols in place that would make a tangible difference in undocumented students’ lives. A school would be considered a sanctuary when it has enacted policies that limit the amount of power both local and campus law enforcement officials have in assisting federal immigration policies.
In light of this election, the need for Wesleyan to become a sanctuary campus is greater than ever before. The results of the election have prompted outrage here at Wes. Although 2016 has been a rocky year, few among the Wes community anticipated a Trump victory. While there were flaws with Hillary Clinton and her candidacy, most were certain that good would be victorious. And in some ways, it was. Clinton won the popular vote by a narrow margin, but sadly it wasn’t enough to keep the presidency out of the hands of Donald Trump. Students across campus, especially those who are members of marginalized groups, are now left questioning their safety. There is a distinct understanding that life in the next four years will be very different from the last eight.
Trump’s campaign has shown the American people that if you run on a platform of hate against women and other marginalized groups, you can become the president. It can often feel like any advancements that were made in the last fifty years were simply undone in the last year. Wesleyan’s student body has come to the collective understanding that now is the time to fight, to create sanctuary campuses, to give a voice to the voiceless. The day after the election, the entire campus was saddened, and the weather didn’t do much to help raise our spirits. But by Friday, Wes students were ready to take part in the student protests stretching nationwide; the #StudentsAgainstTrump protest marched from Usdan to Olin and then to Main Street.
Students have also approached President Michael Roth and Dean Michael Whaley about making Wesleyan a sanctuary campus. In the coming days, they will be discussing the proposition with Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees. A petition that was circulated yesterday by Rebecca Hutman ‘17 and Casey Smith ‘17 has been updated in order to give proper credit to Tomás Rogel ‘19, Michael Montoya ‘20, Paige Hutton ‘18, and Aleyda Robles ‘18; it can be signed here. The petition outlines what being a sanctuary campus should mean to Wesleyan, and includes provisions such as legal counseling for undocumented students, continued reformation of the CAPS department, monetary resources that would cover gaps in health insurance, the filing of DACA documentation and financial aid, and housing for those who cannot return home over university breaks.
Moreover, there is an event circulating on Facebook asking students at Wes to join a nationwide college walk-out and “commit to putting [their] bodies between Trump and undocumented students.” The event also links to a website asking students to declare their campuses as sanctuaries. The national walk-out was pioneered by a non-violent movement called Cosecha, which stands for the “permanent protection, dignity and respect for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.” Today at 3PM, students will leave their classes and go to Usdan to read the petition as a group. Wesleyan will join 80 other campuses across the nation, including University of Michigan–Dearborn, Florida International University, Rutgers University, and New York University in asking administrations to take immediate action to protect their undocumented students.
Wesleyan is a diverse campus, and it will become even more so in the next four years. This past spring, Wesleyan’s administration announced that it would begin to consider undocumented students who have graduated from an American high schools in the admissions process for the Class of 2021. With the election of Donald Trump, Wesleyan students deserve to know that they are in fact at home here at Wes. They deserve to feel that their bodies are safe and that their education will not be jeopardized. They deserve to know that even when the president of this great nation shows undocumented students that he does not respect them, Wesleyan will always stand by their side. While these next four years will be tumultuous, the administration can and should take the initiative of making Wesleyan University’s campus a sanctuary for undocumented students.