Colorado College Campus Denied Sanctuary Status

Last Friday, Cora Lubchenco sent out an email to the 520 students who signed a petition asking President Tiefenthaler to publically designate Colorado College as a sanctuary campus. Lubchenco and Abram Mamet met with Tiefenthaler this month to discuss the petition and what CC is doing to protect DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students. Neither Lubchenco nor Mamet are seeking to be the face of the cause or benefit from their position in the situation; they simply want to provide for others.

The email said that after consulting with immigration lawyers, Tiefenthaler has declined to declare CC a sanctuary campus due to the false hope it may give DACA students and lack of meaning “sanctuary” designates.

Since President-elect Donald Trump’s victory in November—and the threat of his planned immigration policy of mass deportations and termination of Obama’s 2012 order, DACA students at colleges and universities around the country have staged demonstrations in effort to push schools to declare themselves a “sanctuary campus.”

The DACA grants undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to receive a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. The policy has great effect on students, because to be certifiable the immigrant must be currently in school, a high school graduate, or honorably discharged from the military.

The greatest criticism of the policy is that it would give DACA students false hope. It may sound simple for an institution to declare they won’t turn over names of undocumented students to federal immigration officials; however, there’s no way that it can be certain. A Trump administration could potentially withhold federal funding for colleges declared as sanctuary campuses; therefore refusing student loans and perhaps negatively affecting a greater number of students than the sole number of DACA students. This is a utilitarian approach to the issue and most institutions seem to be following this train of thought, despite pressure put on by the students.

Declaring a campus a “sanctuary” holds greater associations with solidarity than any legal implications, which contributes to why so few schools have declared.  In fact, less than ten colleges in the U.S. have established themselves as sanctuary campuses.

Lubchenco said she wasn’t surprised by Tiefenthaler’s response, “Most schools have said no to becoming a sanctuary campus. We are by no means unique.” CC is within the majority in its hesitation to declare itself a sanctuary campus, however the protection of DACA students is still an upmost concern.

As of June 2016, there have been 606, 254 renewal DACA cases. It has been a successful policy yet will be under threat when Trump enters office in January. Many students feel that this threat is exactly the reason CC should be declared a sanctuary campus. They contend that CC shouldn’t make false promises, yet should have formal policies in place in preparation for potential changes next year.

Nicole Tan, head of CC refugee alliance—who holds solidarity with DACA students—said, “We should not have a conversation when it happens but a policy and procedure in place if it happens. It’s important that we have formal policies outlining if ‘this’ were to happen ‘this’ is what we’d do. We don’t have to make false promises.”

Although Tiefenthaler denied the sanctuary campus petition, she has by no means set aside the issue. Lubchenco said, “She’s taking this issue very seriously. When I met with her she was so steadfast; she would lie down for these students.”

Tiefenthaler emailed CC DACA students the day after the election to assure them that their confidentiality and financial aid would no be compromised. In the public sphere she’s taking more a cautious route by not declaring CC a sanctuary campus, but will still have to engage the community in response to the email.

On the subject of DACA students protection Tiefenthaler said, “I will do all that I can to support our DACA students. However, while the college does not act as an immigration enforcement agency (we do not share student records with immigration agencies nor does Campus Safety inquire about student immigration status or participate with other agencies in policing immigration), we cannot violate the law by interfering in the work of federal immigration agents.”

On Tiefenthaler’s outlook, Mamet said, “From Jill’s perspective we’re getting what’s in our mission statement; protecting students who are here and continuing to admit DACA students. We’re doing what we can within the mission statement and anything else is outside of the mission.”

At the end of Lubchenco’s email it asks Tiefenthaler to consider signing a petition “started by Pomona College in support of DACA students and announce that the college will be welcoming at least 10 DACA students from Colorado” next year. The petition currently has 556 presidential signatures from colleges and universities across the country and Colorado, and offers to meet with US leaders on behalf of and in unity with DACA students. Considering that Tiefenthaler has already meet with Colorado officials to discuss DACA student rights, signing the petition wouldn’t be a huge step.

The conclusion of the email calls for students’ ideas and suggestions for methods to progressively address immigration. Lubchenco said, “Given that a sanctuary campus is no longer an option, our next step is to engage the community.” Tan agrees and asserts they are “not trying to push boundaries” but “there should be more structure put in place to show solidarity for DACA students in this time of uncertainty.” 

While there is decided uncertainty in our political climate, there is also clear uncertainty on CC’s campus. Mamet reminds the community: “There’s far greater immediate things to worry about on campus. The question to reconcile with as a student most immediately is how do I reconcile the suffering of the greater community with that of my neighbor, peer, and fellow CC Tiger.”

The DACA issue is significant, yet the community must also consider marginalized peoples on campus who need an immediate voice.

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