Republican immigration policies are beginning to make undocumented college students feel very uneasy about the future of their education. White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, as well as other senior White House officials, have been outspoken critics of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama Era protection for undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children. Undocumented college students are a group that is protected under DACA, allowing them to avoid deportation to finish college. Another threat to their education is being presented in a bill that Representative Duncan Hunter, a republican from California, introduced. This bill, No Funding for Sanctuary Campuses Act, would cut federal funding for schools that violate immigration laws by not cooperating with immigration officials. The bills states that the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, would have a list of the campuses provided by the Department of Homeland Security in order to end funding to those particular schools. If either DACA is repealed or this bill becomes law, undocumented college students are in serious trouble.
To combat these unfortunate dilemmas, multiple colleges across America, including President Trump’s alma mater, University of Pennsylvania, as well as Rutgers University, Vanderbilt University and Connecticut College, to name a few, are implementing immigration policies to protect their undocumented students. As mentioned before, these school are called sanctuary campuses, or safe havens. Some schools prefer the term "safe haven" because it avoids the word "sanctuary," a word that has been stigmatized because of the similarity between the terms sanctuary city and sanctuary campus. Regardless of the name, these schools make a pledge to their undocumented students that they will protect them by not releasing any of their information on their immigration status to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and will not allow them on campus without obtaining a warrant first. College students across the country are rallying together around the ideal of trying to convince their schools to become sanctuary campuses. One of these schools is Ramapo College of New Jersey.
Many Ramapo College students have been working tirelessly with their student government to make this change to their campus. Karlito A., a senior, is one of the students who is leading this charge. He said that he chose this cause to get involved with because he believes that:
". . .this is the time to resist. . .it is very important that we do show [undocumented immigrants] that the United States is still the place of refuge, is still the place of diversity and inclusion that we make it out to be in the textbooks.”
He added that he believes that a sanctuary campus:
". . .would provide a sense of community and a shield of safety for [undocumented immigrants].”
When asked about whether or not the students have the support of the faculty on campus, he stated that:
". . .an overwhelming majority of the faculty care about this issue and support that Ramapo become a sanctuary [campus].”
Another leader of the movement, *Eve E., who is a junior at Ramapo College, says she believes that:
". . .a formal declaration of ‘sanctuary campus’ would be a clear signal to the student body that all students are valued and welcomed and prioritized.”
However, she also thinks that just declaring Ramapo College a sanctuary campus is not enough. Since Trump won the Presidency, there has been a flurry of racism across college campuses towards many minority groups, not just undocumented students. She says that:
". . .there is a lot more work to do aside from sanctuary campus-related issues, especially in relation to diversity and securing funding for a multicultural center, for example.”
She asks that if anyone has questions about sanctuary campuses or questions for Karlito and Eve in regards to theirs efforts to make Ramapo College a sanctuary campus, you can send them to TheRamapoResistance@gmail.com.
The pair are not alone in their efforts; there are many students at Ramapo College supporting their efforts, including Jamie P., a senior. When asked why she thinks Ramapo College should become a sanctuary campus, she said that:
"Ramapo should be a sanctuary campus because students here deserve to feel safe and if that means that we are protecting their rights to a warrant, I’m okay with that.”
Sanctuary campuses across the country, including Wesleyan College and Rutgers University, are thriving and creating a campus climate that not only values diversity, but fiercely protects it. After reaching out to Cara L., a freshman at Rutgers, and asking what her thoughts are about her college becoming a sanctuary campus, she had this to say:
"I guess I just feel very proud to be part of an institution that values its students education and well-being over political differences. I'm so lucky to go to a school that has such a diverse student body [because] that's honestly what makes it such a good school. I think it's a great idea for all schools to be sanctuary campuses [because] education is a right and it should be a safe place to build and learn from each other's differences; that's really how innovation comes about.”
Allison H., a freshman at Wesleyan College, which was one of the first colleges to become a sanctuary campus, had this to say about her school:
"The discussion about sanctuary campuses really became prevalent at Wesleyan following Trump's election. There was a lot of fear and uncertainty, especially among members of marginalized groups, concerning their safety and the safety of the country. I joined many other students to take part in the activism that was taking place on several college campuses throughout the United States, and I was really amazed by the level of dedication that many showed to putting their bodies on the line to protect those groups who would be attacked by Trump's administration and Trump's hateful rhetoric. The general reaction to Wesleyan becoming a sanctuary campus was overwhelmingly positive.”
Though President Trump addressed the fact that he wants to make a compromise on immigration reform Tuesday night in his address to the nation, he made no mention about undocumented college students. The fate of their ability to stay here and finish the education they worked so hard to obtain in the first place rests in his hands and there is great hope that he will not fail them.
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