In anticipation of a Donald Trump administration, undocumented student leaders and concerned members of the UC community convened Monday in hopes of adopting a systemwide “sanctuary university” status to prevent the deportation of undocumented UC affiliates.
An estimated 80 participants took part in a conference call at 2:00 p.m. in which they discussed potential policy actions to safeguard UC students, staff and their families. The conference was intended to be an initial conversation on the issue, where attendees accounted for such a policy’s benefits and risks.
“(UC Berkeley and the UC system have) a commitment to create an environment that affords our students safety and a sense of dignity as they pursue their academics and professional aspirations,” said UC Student Regent-designate Paul Monge, who attends the UC Berkeley School of Law.
Monge said undocumented UC students have advocated for the adoption of a sanctuary university status for years. Since the presidential election, however, Trump’s proposal to deport millions of undocumented immigrants has created a sense of “urgency” surrounding the implementation of the status, according to Monge.
A sanctuary policy may ensure that UC Police Department does not collaborate with the federal immigration enforcement agency by apprehending and turning over undocumented persons. The policy may also entail the clarification of the UC system’s continued commitment to protecting student information from federal agencies, Monge said.
UC Berkeley social welfare professor Kurt Organista said undocumented presence in the United States is an administrative violation, not a crime. The university, as a state entity, has the ability to refuse compliance with federal immigration enforcement, Monge said.
Regarding the efficacy of a sanctuary university policy, however, Organista said beyond UCPD noncompliance, sanctuary universities cannot prevent the federal government from enforcing immigration law. He added that the protection would most likely be limited to students — possibly only while they are on campus.
Additionally, undocumented UC Berkeley alumnus and former ASUC senator Cuahuctemoc Salinas said he was concerned about the implementation of such a policy considering the tense relationship between police and the campus’s undocumented community.
“There (are) a lot of triggering thoughts that cross our minds when we work with police officers,” Salinas said, who alleged that he has been attacked by police officers. “I think also it’s helpful for us to know if these police officers are able to assist us.”
According to Monge, the narratives of undocumented students will guide the policy, which is intended to reflect what the undocumented community would like to see at the campuses.
Organista said, however, that the policy could lead to fiscal retaliation from the federal government and may incur backlash from universities in conservative states and campus affiliates who support Trump. Trump is already threatening to withhold funds from sanctuary cities, Organista said.
More meetings are scheduled for the creation of a more solidified plan, and a vote on the potential policy may occur as early as January at the UC Board of Regents meeting, Monge said. Additionally, the discussion has received interest from the California Community Colleges and California State University systems.