Protestors demand campuses become sanctuaries for undocumented students

Undocumented students feel uncertain and threatened

In the wake of Donald Trump's presidential election victory, faculty and undocumented students say they're worried about deportation and are calling on their institutions to become sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. 

Trump has promised to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and proposed repealing DACA.

How to better support students from international backgrounds

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was issued as an executive order by President Obama in 2012. It allows students who entered the United States before turning 16 to register as immigrants with the government in exchange for a two-year work permit and protection from deportation.

In a letter signed by more than 100 college presidents as of November 21 at 1:30 p.m., schools emphasize the value of this program: "Since [DACA], we have seen the critical benefits of this program for our students, and the highly positive impacts on our institutions and communities. DACA beneficiaries on our campuses have been exemplary student scholars and student leaders, working across campus and in the community," the letter reads.

DACA currently protects more than 700,000 students, who now fear an uncertain future.

Students across the nation are organizing walkouts and petitions to demand their schools become sanctuary campuses. At Pomona College, one of the schools circulating a petition, officials say roughly 50-60 out of their 1,600 students are either protected by the DACA policy or are undocumented altogether. One Pomona student is collecting a list of petitions at other institutions, which numbered more than 100 as of November 21 at 3:30 p.m.

Undocumented students are often highly successful

Pomona President David Oxtoby says students expressed "considerable anxiety" about the future of DACA under Trump's administration.

A college or university becomes a sanctuary campus when the institutional leaders declare it to be one, as Wesleyan University President Michael Roth did in a letter to campus on November 20. In his letter, Roth explains that the concept originated with sanctuary cities like Chicago and New York City, the leaders of which have "declared their intention not to cooperate with federal officials seeking to deport residents simply because they lack appropriate immigration documentation."

Different people have different ideas about what it means to be a sanctuary campus, according to CNN's Catherine Shoichet and Azadeh Ansari. Some common ideas include that sanctuaries should:

  • Keep information on students' immigration status confidential;
  • Publicly declare support for undocumented students;
  • Reaffirm admission and financial-aid policies for undocumented students;
  • Add citizenship counseling or support services for undocumented students;
  • Refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in the case of deportation raids; or
  • Uphold support for DACA.

Miguel Salas, the author of Pomona's petition and a professor of Latin American history and Chicana/o-Latina/o studies says being a sanctuary means "saying that we will continue to fund creatively, and whichever way we can, students that need funding and support and help." 

Many faculty members are non-resident immigrants, too

Terry Hartle, SVP at the American Council on Education, says the organization has received several calls and emails this week from administrators concerned about the future of DACA.

"What we're dealing with is uncertainty," he tells Inside Higher Ed. Hartle noted that all presidential transitions come with some turbulence, but says this particular transition represents "more controversy than we've seen in a long time" (Anderson/Svrluga, Washington Post, 11/15; Ansari, Shoichet, CNN, 11/16; Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 11/15; Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 11/21; Svrluga, Washington Post, 11/16; Najmabadi, Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/17).

How have schools developed educational programs for immigrant students?

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