PETITIONERS EMBRACE ‘SANCTUARY CAMPUS’ MOVEMENT AMID TRUMP FEARS
A growing number of advocates are fighting for the University at Albany to protect students living in the country illegally from possible deportation under President-elect Donald Trump’s nearing administration.
Inspired by the “sanctuary campus” movement, students, faculty, and alumni have signed a petition to combat Trump’s controversial campaign promises on immigration reform by limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The petition — released two weeks ago — has nearly 1,000 signatures.
Under the petition, the university would not release student immigration information to government agencies to protect students living in the country illegally. About six percent of campus immigrants last year reportedly did not live in the country legally.
Additionally, the petition supports President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order which temporarily prevents undocumented children from deportation based on factors such as enrollment, age, criminal history, and arrival.
What’s more, the petition may encounter administrative setbacks ahead. While the petition asks for UAlbany President James Stellar to declare the university a “sanctuary campus,” Karl Luntta, director of media relations said that this platform is out of administrative control.
“Campus presidents do not have the authority to declare a campus a sanctuary by any of the varying ‘sanctuary’ definitions currently circulating,” Luntta said in an email.
Any action for a SUNY campus to declare “sanctuary campus” status would have to be determined to by the SUNY board of trustees, Luntta continued. Further action by the board has yet to be determined.
Other SUNY campuses, such as the University at Buffalo, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Stony Brook University have circulated similar petitions. Together, student and faculty advocates from over 100 colleges across the country have pushed to become a sanctuary for campus community members living in the country illegally.
These movements — along with negative attitudes towards a Trump presidency expressed at post-election campus forums — inspired Cara Ocobock, anthropology professor, to create the petition.
Ocobock’s hope: along with other state-operated campuses, UAlbany support for “sanctuary campus” status will add to the momentum for SUNY to declare support for “sanctuary campus” status across the state.
Working with members of the anthropology department, Ocobock went through several petition drafts before finally releasing the document over the web. The petition vouches for the university to enact a plan to combat Trump’s policies before his term begins.
“There’s the issue that the timeline which to act is very short,” she said. “And even though that it may be seen as reactionary, I will not allow that to be taken here as we put much thought into it.”
While efforts dealing directly with government remain under SUNY jurisdiction, Ocobock hopes for the university to respond to remaining points in the document which call for the university to further promote inclusion, reinforce safety measures, create safe spaces, and protect religious expression, especially for Muslims.
Fearful of Trump’s campaign promises, Alex Terezakis, a sophomore political science student, became one of 352 names of students drawn to sign the petition, after finding it on Facebook.
“I signed [the petition] to show students who might feel demeaned following the racist and sexist rhetoric from our president-elect, that we are in this together and that they have our support,” Terezakis said.
The petition is expected to close by Thursday.