By Sarah Buchlaw
In his State of the Union speech on Jan. 30, President Trump announced a four-tiered plan for immigration reform that will put millions of undocumented people at risk, including students on our campus.
Trump’s plan, which can be read in the White House website’s transcript of the speech, offers limited citizenship possibilities in exchange for a wall, more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, and the prevention of immigrants from sponsoring family members to join them in the U.S.
This “safe, modern, and lawful immigration system,” as Trump’s speech calls it, is not safe for members of our community. It is crucial to show undocumented students that our commitment to their safety goes beyond flowery mission statements and grand promises.
Current Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS) president Amanda Díaz has brought precisely that purpose to the forefront of her presidency. Since founding the anti-deportation and detention club Advocates for Detained Voices (ADV) in 2014, Diaz has demanded our campus actively resist the inhumane American immigration system.
This year, Díaz and her team advocated for better overall administrative support for vulnerable students, including funds to cover DACA renewal costs and emergency needs of undocumented students.
ASUPS senate earmarked $7,000 from the senate’s finance account to fund their initial DACA renewal fund plan to directly supply students with the $495 renewal fee. This plan fell through because of confidentiality and tax issues, according to Doug Palmer, ASUPS Director of Business Services.
Although those $7,000 from the senate were never used, the money ASUPS was willing to give made a statement, eventually prompting President Crawford to take action. As a result, the University website now details “a confidential arrangement with Tacoma Community House (TCH),” where students can anonymously contact the local organization for help renewing their DACA, and all fees will be covered by our school.
That success is a sign of our influence as the student body on this institution, and therefore, our responsibility: when we feel that our administrators are not doing their job in protecting all members of the community, it becomes the community’s job to demand improvement.
Beyond a DACA renewal fund, ASUPS proposed that money be set aside for undocumented students in case of personal emergency, such as a family member facing deportation or a DACA student whose tuition costs rise after the program’s termination. Díaz says that this plan was not well-received by administration.
The revised proposal suggests a fund open to all, but with priority given to low-income students. ASUPS suggests the fund be administered through the Center for Intercultural and Civic Engagement (CICE), which is how a similar alumni-subsidized emergency fund operates at Smith College. Díaz says that this new proposal takes into account not only what we consider emergencies, but travel costs and unexpected medical expenses.
While these ASUPS-spurred changes are a great start, the level of administrative support for undocumented students remains disappointing.
President Crawford re-convened the Undocumented Students Work Group (USWG) last year to suggest improvements in our school’s protection of vulnerable students. Aside from the USWG’s ICE visit protocol, Díaz said she thinks the group is “a bureaucratic trap. … It’s ineffective.”
The lack of student input and the somewhat randomly-chosen faculty members who make up the group are issues that Díaz sees. “You have people who are not committed to immigration justice, may or may not agree with what they’re sitting on for. … Obviously, it is a recipe for unproductivity and inefficiency,” Díaz said.
Another serious question Díaz has is why Todd Badham, Director of Security, has a role in the USWG. “It doesn’t make any sense when you put security services, or anybody with a badge … under an undocumented students working group — that is counterintuitive to the safety and comfort of all of our undocumented students,” Diaz said.
This is another reason why a group on undocumented students should consult undocumented students. How many times must marginalized students remind us that they do not feel protected by officials like Badham? If only white or institutionally empowered students and administrators are the ones guiding these groups, we are not serving the people we claim to be.
These questions become more relevant after a recent ICE visit to Puget Sound. The agent supposedly came to meet with International Programs to certify the visas of our international students, but few members of the campus community were notified. Díaz was frustrated that the few people notified heard only the day before, and that the visit happened on the first day of classes, rather than any day the week before.
“I think there could have been a campus-wide message … and if not that, there could have been direct contact with identity-based clubs,” Díaz said. We don’t want to scare people unnecessarily, Díaz clarified, but the University must respect its responsibility to warn students of any campus ICE visit.
Additionally, our school has a responsibility to hire qualified professionals as resources for undocumented students. A chaplain’s anonymity is great, but Díaz says the University needs “an individual dedicated to undocumented students’ services,” and has worked with these unique issues either personally or extensively.
More robust and qualified resources, a commitment to cover any lost tuition subsidies after DACA collapses, and “centralizing undocumented students’ voices” are changes Díaz deems necessary to ensure the safety of all Puget Sound students.
Díaz says anyone feeling unsafe right now can contact her anonymously with any concerns.