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USG calls on administration to establish sanctuary campus

Ella Helmuth

Ella Helmuth

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Tulane’s Undergraduate Student Government moved to stand with undocumented students by calling for Tulane to become a sanctuary campus.

With the passing of this legislation, Tulane may join the wave of universities across the country making their campuses sanctuary spaces for undocumented immigrants.

A sanctuary campus, as defined by Tulane organizers, is a campus that refuses to work with immigration services to provide information that would allow undocumented students to be deported and also provides services to these students.

The recent push for these sanctuary campuses is attributed to the possible elimination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals under President-elect Donald Trump. DACA is a policy signed by President Barack Obama that allowed undocumented citizens who came to the country as minors to have renewable two-year periods of “deferred” deportation if they meet certain criteria, like attending school or working. Many undocumented students on college campuses receive DACA.

A group of Tulane faculty, staff and graduate students came together in light of the perceived threat to undocumented students to create the Sanctuary Campus Committee. This committee drafted a letter to Tulane President Michael Fitts calling for the implementation of the various services undocumented students will need if DACA is eliminated.

Vanessa Castaneda, a graduate student in the Department of Latin American Studies and graduate assistant for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, came to speak to USG during the student forum session about why DACA would no longer be sufficient in protecting these students.

“DACA is extremely easy to undo, so if [Trump] decides to get rid of DACA, he can,” Castaneda said.

Josh Rosenbaum, junior and senator for the School of Liberal Arts, authored the legislation and worked with the Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Committee on USG to get in contact with Castaneda and the other members of the SCC to draft the legislation.

Rosenbaum said he believes the legislation is not a question of partisan politics but a matter of humanity.

“That threat … is too much for [USG], who supposedly represents all students, including our undocumented students, to not take a stand,” Rosenbaum said.

Though the general opinion of the senate was for the legislation, the legislation’s wording incited debate. An amendment was proposed to take out all references of Trump.

“President-Elect Trump’s anti-immigrant stance and his Cabinet appointments, including the chief strategist and attorney general nominees, who have publicly espoused white nationalist and anti-immigrant beliefs threaten Tulane students, faculty, and staff (including contracted workers), especially those who identify as people of color, women, LGBTQ, Muslim, disabled, Jewish, or undocumented,” the legislation stated.

Some members of USG felt the language excluded students who may have supported Trump and violated the principle that USG should not pass partisan legislation.

Others said the mention of Trump was necessary to recognize the effect of his presidency on undocumented students.

“We’re denying these people’s experiences by getting rid of the reference to Trump,” Pearl Dalla, USG Gender and Sexual Advisory council chair, said.

The amendment to the bill did not pass and after a quick voting period, the legislation calling for the Tulane administration to make Tulane a sanctuary campus passed. Celebratory hugs and claps erupted afterward among the senate members.

Khristyan Trejo, president of Generating Excellence Now and Tomorrow in Education, said he felt that, as a student of color, he was proud of the legislation and that USG sent a definitive message by passing it.

“It reminded me that as a community, we are willing to protect each other,” Trejo said. “There’s still more work that has to be done, but this was definitely a good start. The Tulane [USG] sent a public message that hate and bigotry will be fought against while reminding students that they matter.”

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
USG calls on administration to establish sanctuary campus