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Pushing for sanctuary status

guest column

As many of you know, it was announced on Tuesday, Nov. 22, that President Brodhead signed a statement the day before, along with more than 100 college and university presidents nationwide, calling for the United States to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program started by President Barack Obama. Though significant, we recognize that this statement needs to be supported by direct action from the administration to safeguard our students’ well-being.

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, we joined more than 100 college and universities across the country who called for their campuses to become a Sanctuary Campus. Representatives from Alerta Migratoria N.C., Southerners on New Ground, The Durham Association of Educators, Comite Popular Somos Raleigh and Christy Lohr Sapp, the Associate Dean for Religious Life at Duke University Chapel, along with various speakers who are directly affected by anti-immigrant legislation, presented their personal and community concerns and demanded that the university take action to provide students with the physical, economic, and psychological support in light of the President-Elect’s campaign promises. The petition we wrote to demand Duke become a sanctuary campus received more than 2,000 signatures in 24 hours from students, faculty, staff, alumni and concerned community members.

On the morning of Thursday, Nov. 17, we had a meeting with Dean Valerie Ashby (Dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences) and Larry Moneta (Vice President for Student Affairs) to discuss the specifics of the petition and steps as we move ahead. We insisted that the administration ensure students’ wellbeing by taking the following measures: 1) withhold undocumented students’ information from immigration officials without a court-ordered subpoena; 2) prevent immigration officials from entering campus without a warrant; and 3) expand financial aid for undocumented students who lose the ability to work, as well as provide funding for those students’ who will have immigration-related legal expenses. We called for trainings for Duke advisers, staff and personnel, recognizing that many do not know what measures should be taken if federal immigration officials contact them or what their students’ and their rights are. We also urged that Counseling and Psychological Services also be supported to train or hire a professional whose focus is on working with undocumented students, who face very particular trials and tribulations.

We urge President Brodhead to declare Duke University a sanctuary and promise to financially support its most vulnerable students. President Brodhead would be among an elite group of college and university presidents who already have committed to these efforts, among them, the presidents from Columbia University, Wesleyan College, the University of Pennsylvania, Oregon State University, Reed College, Pitzer College and Portland State University. Public school systems like those in Portland and Los Angeles have also recognized the necessity of affirming that schools will be “safe zones” for students.

We do not know what will happen in the next months, nor what will happen when the President-elect is sworn into office. While the #SanctuaryCampus movement is growing, only a small number schools have affirmed their commitment to their undocumented students. Duke has the opportunity to be among a select few who have promised to protect their students and support their well-being. College and university presidents also have signed onto a call urging the President-elect to condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate, and acts of violence that are being perpetrated across our nation, especially in the wake of his cabinet announcements. President Brodhead must reinforce Duke University’s fundamental mission to attend not only to students’ intellectual growth but also to their development as adults committed to high ethical standards and full participation as leaders in their communities. Amid puzzling and concerning times, President Brodhead and other Duke administrators have the opportunity to provide specific policy decisions that can ensure that no student at Duke is burdened by their documentation status.

We also cannot and will not ignore the other undocumented immigrants across the country and in our own city that do not fall under DACA and have thus never stopped fearing their potential deportation. We want to explore the possibility of serving as a sanctuary for our Durham neighbors and their families, and we hope that our administration at Duke also will support us as we investigate this action.

We will continue to update our Duke community throughout our meetings with the administration, which has so far been quite positive and encouraging. Please like our Facebook page, @dukesanctuary, to also stay up-to-date on any news regarding the #DukeSanctuary movement. Feel free to reach out to us through our Facebook page or email (dukesanctuary@gmail.com) if you would like to become more involved.

Hasta la victoria.

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