During his candidacy, President-elect Donald Trump made frightening statements about proposals to deport millions of immigrants. In addition to employing highly racist rhetoric that referred to Mexicans immigrants to America as “rapists and criminals,” he has offered plans for deportation throughout his campaign. On his campaign’s website, there is a list of Trump’s 10 point plan to “put Amerca first.” This list includes the request for an impenetrable wall, funded by Mexico, on the southern border of the United States, a call to move out “criminal aliens” on “day one,” and the immediate termination of President Barack Obama’s executive amnesties (Trump Campaign website, “Immigration”).
Now that he has been elected, the jury is out as to whether these suggestions were merely bloviating incendiary rhetoric, or genuine assertions of plans that could, and will, be implemented during his presidency. The wall will likely be scrapped since, as many experts have pointed out, it is economically unfeasible. However, the resolution to remove Obama’s executive amnesty—which could effectively remove “criminal aliens” from the American landscape—may well be put into place. When asked to follow up on these ideas on “60 Minutes,” Trump doubled down, saying, “What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records — gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million. We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate” (The New York Times, “What Donald Trump’s Vow to Deport Up to 3 Million Immigrants Would Mean, 11.14.16).
These plans and propositions, if enacted, would have drastic and traumatic effects on members of our nation and, more specifically, members of the Vassar community. Recently there has been a circulating draft for a Sancutary Campus resolution written for professors including Dr. David Tavárez, calling for Interim President Jon Chenette and the Board of Trustees to support the sanctuary resolution. The Miscellany News would like to urge the trustees to adopt this resolution to oppose the President-elect’s xenophobic policies in whatever forms they may take, and to take swift steps to protect our community members.
On Nov. 20, VSA President Calvin Lamothe ‘16 sent the petition to make Vassar’s campus a sanctuary to the student body. The Sanctuary Campus Resolution, drafted by Vassar faculty members, addresses Trump’s declarations and proposes action from the College. The resolution mentions President Obama’s immigration reform, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and explains how Trump’s actions will reverse such protection and progress. Trump plans to abolish such legislation and appoint task forces, including members from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to find and deport these immigrants. The resolutions asks Vassar Administration to restrict such task forces from entering campus by establishing Vassar as a sanctuary campus.
As a sanctuary, the College would ensure the safety and protection of all members of the community, especially those vulnerable to immigration enforcement. To do so, Vassar will refuse to submit information about community members or participate in any action to assist ICE action or deportation. In solidarity with the sanctuary campus resolution, a total of 2056 signatures have been submitted, including 800 alumnae/i and 1005 current students.
Many colleges and universities across the U.S. have adopted or are in the process of adopting similar resolutions. On Nov. 18, President of Reed College John R. Kroger announced that Reed is officially a sanctuary, and will support students and faculty regardless of immigration status.
Colleges and universities across the country are joining in the movement to implement comparable sanctuary resolutions. 28 colleges in total have officially declared themselves sanctuaries and students from over 100 schools have signed petitions asking that their campuses become sanctuaries (Remezcla, “28 univer- sities that will offer sanctuary to their undocu- mented students,” 11.22.2016).
The California State University system, comprised of 23 schools in total, reaffirmed its commitment to remain as safe a space as possible for undocumented students. More concretely, the University of California at Davis has designated a space to provide resources and legal support to undocumented students, while Trinity College is building a similar network of alumnae/i willing to provide legal help. Similar to Vassar’s Sanctuary Campus Resolution, many colleges and universities are asking their administrations to refuse immigration officers access to campuses, but the demands of student bodies are varied and the legal implications of these proposed resolutions can often be arcane and byzantine.
Unsurprisingly, then, there seems to be, both on campus and throughout the country a great deal of misunderstanding about the legality of sanctuary campuses. To be clear, implementing such a policy in itself does not carry any tangible legal clout; indeed, on a basic level, the resolution is simply a refusal to implement practices that will actively harm immigrants. Many sanctuary resolutions–including the one proposed to Vassar’s Board of Trustees and administration—leave it unclear how far the college or university would go to protect members of the community who are in danger of deportation. As a college that does not rely on state funding, Vassar seems, at the moment, to have little to lose; the only concrete repercussion for the resolution to protecting immigrants is the potential loss of federal funding or support.
Many schools have raised concerns about the possible effects of sanctuary campuses on undocumented students. To begin with, while sanctuary cities have police forces and other forms of civic protection, most institutions of higher learning do not have the resources to prevent immigration officers from entering the campus. The University of Wisconsin at Madison released a statement clarifying, “University of Wisconsin Police Department and Madison Police Department officers have full authority from the state Legislature to enforce laws and applicable rules on campus without seeking permission of the university” (The Atlantic, “Campus push raises questions after Trump,” 11.22.2016).
In spite of these possible limitations, we feel that the adoption of the resolution is paramount in expressing solidarity with students further marginalized by Trump’s hate speech and to ensure that Vassar endeavors to be a safe and protective space for all students, regardless of their documentation status. We at The Miscellany News support the immediate implementation of the Sanctuary Campus Resolution, and hope to see the College take all necessary precautions to protect undocumented students and faculty. We encourage the trustees to seriously consider the promises made to admitted students to make their education affordable, secure and meaningful, and believe that adopting the Sanctuary Campus Resolution is essential to showing that Vassar stands by its principles.