ON NOV. 11, Professor of History and Director of Ethnic Studies Elliott Young created a petition to declare Lewis & Clark a sanctuary for undocumented people, which has over 1,500 signatures at the time of writing. Young got the idea after connecting with various immigration historians across the country. Colleges throughout the country have started petitions and declarations to become “sanctuary campuses.” The college presidents at Reed College and Portland State University have declared their campuses to be sanctuaries for undocumented people.
“A sanctuary campus is a declaration that our community believes in protecting undocumented students, faculty and staff on our campus and concretely that would mean not cooperating with the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other federal immigration enforcement agencies unless ordered to do so by the court in some sort of court order,” Young said. “What a sanctuary campus would mean symbolically would be a message of support to undocumented people on our campus as well as to all non-citizens that we consider them equal members of our community in the face of a [United States] president that clearly looks down upon undocumented immigrants.”
The Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) task force met Nov. 18 to discuss the question of what a sanctuary campus is and what needs to be done to support undocumented people at LC. Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Janet Steverson is working with this task force and students from the LC Law School on the issue.
“Barry Glassner asked us to give him advice as to what we think the college should do with regard to the question of the best support and protection of DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] students or undocumented employees which includes the question of sanctuary, but it’s a broader question because protection may be more than just saying we’re a sanctuary, like what does that mean?” Steverson said. “What I’m working on are our priorities. What’s our highest priority for individual community members that are uncertain as to what resources are available to them and I’m working on that.”
“If we’re working towards the same goal–protecting the members of our community–doing so collaboratively is the best way to go so that everybody has all the same information and is operating on the same page,” Steverson said.
President Glassner and Dean Steverson came out with a letter on Nov. 21 reporting LC’s efforts to support all students regardless of their immigration status or religious affiliation. The letter reminded the community that LC already cannot give the government confidential information under the protection of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Additionally, any form of law enforcement has to go through campus safety before entering. CDI and LC law students are currently working on collecting legal resources and communicating with various affinity groups on campus to get their input.
LC has not announced itself a sanctuary campus due to the task force’s growing concerns with the term’s ambiguity. Glassner and Steverson believe that the college can support undocumented people on campus without declaring itself a sanctuary, although CDI is still keeping the discussion open.
Originally, Young was working with a group of students, staff and faculty to create a public gathering which they were calling “Solidarity for Sanctuary.” However, due to the letter released by Glassner and Steverson in response to the petition, the gathering is most likely going to be renamed and moved closer to the Presidential inauguration in January. Young said that the action will be to distribute an informational flyer to those most likely to be affected. CDI and Young’s group came to this decision after discussing what will be most useful for undocumented people on campus.
“I think we all want to protect undocumented people on our campus,” Young said. “It’s just about now figuring out how to do that within the confines of the law. I think there is some room between noncooperation with the authorities and the legality. What we can do now, besides the petition, are public demonstrations of that message that we support undocumented people on our campus. We treat them as equals and so this idea of a ‘Solidarity for Sanctuary’ gathering would be one element in publicizing one element of our community message about that.”
A rally is still being planned for the Presidential inauguration. After CDI talked to multiple affinity groups on campus it is likely that the rally could incorporate the support of not only undocumented people on campus, but other groups of people that have been threatened by the Presidential election. The main reason why the rally has been moved was to ensure that there would be enough time to develop a well thought out and substantial demonstration. David Shapiro ’16, who attended Young’s first sanctuary information and planning meeting, believes that a gathering is a great opportunity to come together as a community and develop student engagement on campus.
“I think more than anything issues like the sanctuary are opportunities for students to really occupy the conversation,” Shapiro said. “What [the ‘Solidarity for Sanctuary’ gathering] is really going to address is undocumented students and so I think it’s important that students engage not only in this conversation but engage in reshaping what it means to be a LC student. Right now I think that means showing that we’re going to fight for our fellow students who are going to be under attack in the coming years. So, in addition, we don’t really know what’s to come in the future but what we do know and what we do have control over is this community.”
While there will not be a rally this semester, the LC community is working towards the same goal to create a safe and supportive space for undocumented people on campus and other groups affected by the election.