More than 750 sign petition to make Northwestern a ‘sanctuary’ for undocumented people

Mariana Alfaro, Web Editor

A petition asking University President Morton Schapiro and other administrators to declare Northwestern a “sanctuary” for undocumented students, workers and their families in reaction to President-elect Donald Trump’s election gathered more than 750 signatures as of Monday night.

The petition references comments Trump made about his intention to immediately begin deportation proceedings against millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, as well as his plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy passed by President Barack Obama. The act temporarily shielded undocumented people who were brought into the country as children from being deported.

“If these policies are enacted, they will prove disastrous, subjecting students and workers who are integral to our community to punitive measures, and countering Northwestern’s stated commitment to ‘the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community,’” the petition said.

English Prof. John Alba Cutler started the petition Monday morning after reading a Huffington Post op-ed encouraging universities to become sanctuaries for undocumented people. Sanctuaries do not alert federal authorities about individuals who violate immigration laws. Cutler, who also teaches Latina and Latino studies, told The Daily the petition was drafted with the help of colleagues in the two departments.

The petition outlines seven recommendations for administrators to protect community members who may feel threatened by Trump’s comments and by “incendiary graffiti and vandalism, and hateful comments directed at students of color on our own campus” that have happened prior to the election.

The recommendations include refusing to comply with federal authorities regarding deportations or immigration raids, guaranteeing student privacy by refusing to release information about citizenship status and reaffirming admission and financial aid policies regarding undocumented students.

Students and other NU community members began sharing the petition through social media Monday evening.

Amy Glazier-Torgerson (SESP ’15), research study coordinator at the Institute for Policy Research, said the petition is a way for the University to be directly involved in protecting students’ rights.

“It’s important for administrators to be a part of this,” she said. “This is only really going to work if everybody gets on board. That’s how we’ll be more united.”

Currently, University policies state all applicants must be considered in the same pool, regardless of citizenship or DACA status. The Office of Undergraduate Admission reviews applications from undocumented students under a “need blind” basis, just like U.S. citizens. Only international students are reviewed under a “need aware” basis.

NU also doesn’t require students to disclose their citizenship status when applying, and the University is not legally bound to report citizenship status of its students to any federal organization.

Because NU has its own police department, Cutler said he believes University Police should fall under similar jurisdiction as law enforcement in sanctuary cities when it comes to federal requests to conduct immigration raids on campus.

The petition also asks University officials to protect the visa status and funding of international students.

In an August speech, Trump said the country needs to control the number of temporary visitors and permanent immigrants coming from the Middle East. During the 2015-16 academic year, 3 percent of NU’s international student population came from the Middle East, according to data released by NU’s International Office.

Trump also outlined a policy that could affect international students on campus. Last month, he said the United States would stop issuing visas to countries that refused to take back citizens who have been deported from the United States.

Cutler added that part of the petition’s motivation is to hold the University “to a standard of being a sanctuary.”

“Any clarification would be really welcome right now because, right now, it’s not clear what the University is doing at all when those situations arrive,” Cutler said. “I am not a legal expert, but my understanding, based on the way sanctuary cities work, is that because immigration is enforced on the federal level, cities have been able to basically refuse assistance to federal law enforcement because cities are under state jurisdiction.”

In 2008, Evanston passed a resolution asking the federal government to reform immigration policies. Evanston city manager Wally Bobkiewicz told The Daily the council needs to talk more about what the city’s definition of a sanctuary city is, given that the city already doesn’t require residents to disclose their immigration status.

“I’d say we are (a sanctuary city), but it’s a matter of how you characterize it,” he said.

A previous version of this story misstated who can be temporarily shielded by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. DACA recipients are undocumented people who entered the United States as children. The Daily regrets the error.

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