By Aidan Regan
Dec 6th, 2016
“We are asking the University to…not be complacent like we were during WWII when our Japanese students were taken from campus and our University did nothing,” Amanda Diaz, a Puget Sound junior, said about the petition to classify Puget Sound as a sanctuary campus.
“Sanctuary campuses are those that promise to not assist federal immigration officials in the investigation of the immigration status of members of a campus community—students, faculty, and staff alike,” President Crawford wrote in his campus-wide email responding to the petition on November 18.
Even though there’s no one definition of what it means to be a sanctuary campus, anthropology professor Monica DeHart said they share a common principle. “Their institutions [are] ethically…in opposition to what we see as very immoral immigration policies that are being imposed.”
Diaz helped craft the petition alongside a group of Puget Sound professors spearheaded by DeHart. Diaz then spread it among the student body, calling their response “net positive.”
The petition ended on November 30 with 1187 signatures: 454 students, 134 faculty, 77 staff, 397 alumni, and 115 other community members.
On November 28, DeHart proposed a faculty resolution with revised wording but the same goals as the petition. The faculty in attendance passed it without opposition and forwarded it to the Board of Trustees.
“People were using the language ‘moral imperative’ and…seeing this moment for the important moment that it is,” history professor Nancy Bristow, who also helped create the petition at Puget Sound, said.
“Seeing that our faculty was so committed to the principle was incredibly moving…I was totally humbled and so grateful for being part of a community that has that kind of moral compass,” DeHart said. “People unequivocally and very publicly said, ‘this matters, we have to take this stand.’”
The nationwide sanctuary campus movement comes in response to President-Elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies. His “10 Point Plan to Put America First” promises to take actions against undocumented immigrants within his first 100 days in office.
Those actions include deportation and the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA offers protections to undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children, allowing them to attend college without fear of deportation.
President Crawford was one of over 90 university presidents nationally to sign a statement published in Inside Higher Education calling for th bv e continuation and expansion of DACA.
As for Puget Sound’s classification as a sanctuary campus, Crawford wanted to be sure that the University made a commitment that is not just symbolic, but substantive. He sent the campus community a followup email on December 6. It included a statement from the University which is also published on its website.
The statement detailed four commitments to undocumented students. The University promised to welcome their applications and offer institutional financial aid, to protect all students’ privacy, to provide support for those concerned with their immigration status and to “not voluntarily cooperate with immigration enforcement officials…unless compelled to do so by law.”
“We must be able to stand behind our commitments, and support them with policies and programs that are sustainable. ” Crawford said. The University’s statement falls in line with Crawford’s intention, but avoids calling Puget Sound a sanctuary campus.
“[Our] commitments are consistent with those of many colleges and universities that have adopted the “sanctuary campus” label, a term for which there is no legal definition at this time,” the statement said.
“While understanding the symbolic value of declaring Puget Sound a sanctuary campus, we recognize that adopting such a label carries with it the potential for serious ramifications that could adversely affect the very populations we seek to support.”
As the statement says, much of the hesitation towards adopting the classification of sanctuary campus comes from its legal uncertainties. As a result, many sanctuary campuses have included similar caveats in their stances.
Portland State University pledged to “not facilitate or consent to immigration enforcement activities…unless legally compelled to do so.” Reed College “will not assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement…absent a direct court order.” However, both institutions have classified themselves as sanctuary campuses.
“Individually any one of us might decide to do very different things to protect students and campus members, but as a motion those things would have to be nuanced within a legal parameter,” DeHart explained before Puget Sound released its statement. “[We are]…trying to preemptively and proactively take a stance, but we can’t anticipate all the complexities.”
“That’s why the sanctuary movement is so important to us…we don’t know what’s going to happen, [but] it suggests an intentionality,” Bristow said.
Both DeHart and Bristow emphasized that there’s a strength in numbers. “It’s part of a national movement,” Bristow said. “As more and more campuses take this position it will make it harder and harder for…anyone’s students…to be singled out for that kind of repression.”
After the statement’s release, DeHart, Bristow and politics and government professor Robin Jacobson, the collaborators on the faculty resolution, contacted The Trail. “We worry that the statement only reaffirms existing policies, and in doing so neglects the need for a more vigorous stance on behalf our students,” they wrote.
Judging by the response to the petition, at least 1187 of Puget Sound’s community members want Puget Sound to take that stance and become a sanctuary campus.
“Our university says we value diversity and inclusion,” Diaz said. “We want to really see that be an action instead of a PR strategy.”