Following the trend of sanctuary cities, colleges across the United States have begun to declare their campuses to be “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented students that are threatened by deportation, especially under the new Trump administration amidst his promises to stem “the tide of lawlessness associated with illegal immigration.” The University of California was one of the first to declare their support for these students by refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officers.
In his first days in office, Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday, Jan. 25, ordering for the “construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border, boosting border patrol forces and increasing the number of immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations.” This has caused concern for the safety of undocumented individuals and sparked the movement to make campuses and cities a place of sanctuary.
Although the UC has not explicitly used the term “sanctuary campus” to define their actions, this declaration is to provide security and reassurance for undocumented students. In the “Statement of Principles in Support of Undocumented Members of the UC Community,” which was released on Wednesday, Nov. 30, the UC listed the policies and procedures it will be following to ensure the creation of “an environment in which all admitted students can successfully matriculate and graduate.” Examples of such policies include the assurance that “campus police officers will not contact, detain, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis of suspected undocumented immigration status or to discover the immigration status of an individual, except as required by law.”
UCR reached out to students via email on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, promising their support for students and reaffirmed their beliefs as stated in “UCR’s Principles of Community.” Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs James Sandoval sent the email on behalf of UCR and said he was “inspired by the strength, courage, and resolve of our students as a whole.”
Despite these commitments, individuals at UCR want the administration to do more to affirm their support for undocumented immigrants attending UCR by declaring UCR, individually, as a sanctuary campus. Devra Anne Weber, associate professor of history at UCR, wrote a petition with the support of over 400 other professors and students. Among the reasons why UCR should be a sanctuary campus, is the statement, “As the 8th most diverse campus in the United States, we would join with Cities (sic) and hundreds of Universities across the US that have declared their spaces as Sanctuaries.” It also calls on the administration to continue to provide resources for the Undocumented Students Programs and to provide an on-campus immigration attorney as other schools such as UCLA and UCI have done.
One undocumented student at UCR — who will remain anonymous for their safety — said that although Napolitano has promised protection, “I do think UCR and the administration should say that UCR is a sanctuary campus. The reason why is because I think that students, such as myself, feel a lot of uncertainty and do need to hear that we are part of a sanctuary campus. It is just good to hear and gives us peace of mind.”
In addition to fearing possible deportation, another undocumented student said that she worries about the possible financial repercussions, “There is that fear that he could impose regulations or laws that could affect my education. I know that undocumented students qualify for in state tuition if they meet the requirements and if he were to take that away it would put a huge burden on my family and I.”