More than 2,000 Cornell University students and professors have signed a petition asking the university to declare itself a sanctuary for undocumented students. I spoke to Marina Jimenez of the Toronto Star about the petition.
The entire article is available here on the Toronto Star website. A transcript is included below.
Fearing Trump, a U.S. campus calls for sanctuary
Maria Jimenez, Toronto Star | January 2, 2017
ITHACA, N.Y.—In a time of fear and uncertainty, college campuses and cities across the U.S. are vowing to fight back if president-elect Donald Trump tries to deport students and law-abiding community members who lack legal status.
At Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., more than 2,000 students and professors signed a petition asking the university to join other institutions and declare itself a sanctuary, or safe haven, for undocumented students.
“I am frightened,” said one literature student, who asked not to be identified for fear she could be deported. “But I am also encouraged to see people mobilizing and organizing and preparing for Trump to carry out his threat to deport millions of illegals.”
As many as 740,000 children and teenagers — including this woman in her 20s — were given temporary amnesty four years ago when President Barack Obama passed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Now these “DREAMers” — named after an earlier version of the act which was not passed — fear they, or their parents, will be targeted if they come out of the shadows.
“My parents brought me from Mexico to Los Angeles when I was 8. They worked hard and paid taxes and put me and my two siblings through college,” said the Cornell student, who attended a recent campus rally. “I registered in DACA, and gave authorities my fingerprints. The threat is serious now that I could be deported. It is stressful not knowing when this could happen.”
Trump, who takes office Jan. 20, has said that during his first 100 days he plans to “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.” The president-elect has not listed the specific actions he plans to cancel to back up his hyperbole, but his campaign website singled out the amnesty law, which was passed by executive action in 2012.
DACA granted applicants who arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, and who have lived there continuously since 2007, a chance to legally get a job with a two-year guarantee they would not be deported. It was never designed to be a permanent solution, rather to buy time until other immigration reforms could be passed.
Under a Trump presidency, those expected reforms are almost certainly dead.
Hunter Rawlings, Cornell’s interim president, reaffirmed in a recent statement that the university “stands with every Cornellian”. But he stopped short of calling Cornell a sanctuary campus.
The sanctuary movement sprang to life in the 1980s, when some U.S. cities pledged to protect undocumented residents by not prosecuting them for breaking federal immigration law. Dozens of U.S. cities have since declared themselves sanctuaries, including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Oakland and Seattle. What this actually means in practice can vary. Some cities bar police from asking about people’s immigration status. Others won’t detain people, on the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, if they are accused of minor offences.
Sanctuary declarations are not legally binding, say experts.
“You can call yourself a sanctuary university, but it doesn’t have a legal meaning,” says Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell law professor who specializes in immigration.
University officials cannot legally block federal immigration agents from entering public spaces on campus if they have a warrant — although they can choose not to volunteer information that might lead to an arrest.
Cornell doesn’t track the immigration status of students when they register or apply for financial aid, according an official. Yale-Loehr estimates there are about 50 to 100 Cornell students who are undocumented or are covered under DACA.
Yale-Loehr does not believe federal agents will knock on students’ doors any time soon, even under Trump. He predicts they will prioritize undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes.
U.S. immigration courts are also backlogged, and Trump would have to significantly increase spending if he wants to deport any large fraction of the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status.
Still, the issue is a demoralizing one for the DREAMers, and their supporters. If Trump instructed federal agents to move in on campuses to deport undocumented students en masse, they could — although it would be unprecedented in modern American history.
“Cornell is a liberal bubble and we were blindsided by the Trump victory,” said Cody Moris, a 19-year-old Cornell student and member of the campus’ Amnesty International.
“It’s a real wake-up call. We need to mobilize.”