Thursday, May 24, 2018

Trinity: Sanctuary or Conciliatory?

JAMES CALABRESI ’20

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Sanctuary Campus: “a college or university in the United States that adopts policies to protect students who are undocumented immigrants”. Modeled after the Sanctuary City, which pledges legal protection from federal immigration laws, Sanctuary Campuses across the country have backed up this self-proclaimed title by working legally to protect the privacy and prevent the deportation of students who are undocumented immigrants. In response to the outpouring of support across the country against the rhetoric of Donald Trump, Trinity College decided that it would adopt a new message of inclusivity.

These new policies include ostensible support for students who have been granted DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). As a part of the new “Campaign for Community,” President Joanne Berger-Sweeney announced that Trinity will protect the confidentiality of students’ immigration statuses, except when they are under court order.  Berger-Sweeney also pledged that the school would help put DACA students in contact with alumni who can offer “legal assistance” to students. She has also announced that the college will monitor the campus for bias and harassment of its minority populations and provide a special emergency travel account for DACA students.

“It is not clear what a ‘sanctuary center of higher education’ entails,” Berger-Sweeney said in response to a letter signed by more than 100 faculty members calling for a sanctuary campus. Now of course, this is a complicated matter, but there are many sanctuary campuses and cities around the country from which to model ourselves. At the moment, Trinity is lacking in its support of immigrants.  

So what, you might ask, has Trinity College done wrong in supporting the undocumented population of students on campus? Have they not supported them enough? I would respond: not nearly enough. If a federal official decided at this exact moment, for whatever reason, that a student part of the undocumented immigrant community had the potential to harm the community around them, they could quite easily be federally investigated, brought to court, where they would have to fight without the repute of their college on their side, and perhaps, in the worst circumstances, be deported.

How Trinity College’s officials can see the fright and harm this would cause a student and do nothing about it is beyond me. The legal assistance they offer through their alumni network is helpful, but it does not quite have the same weight for one’s family of knowing that your college is on your side. Additionally, unlike other colleges, Trinity has not announced that they would only allow warrant-supported action against students. This suggests that Trinity, while pronouncing their support for “confidentiality of student information” and pledge to protect documents from government agencies, would still allow immigration officials to come in without warrants and drag students off for investigative purposes. While Trinity may hide behind the veneer of keeping DACA students’ information safe, they cannot bring themselves to the most important action of all- physical protection and legal sanctuary from unwarranted federal seizure. For many families, which might also not have the finances to fight a battle with the government in court, this could lead to pain and disaster for many.

As the Trump administration plans to cut off, not restrain or shift, the funds of Sanctuary Cities, our country faces moral and constitutional questions. Such action by the Trump administration would likely cause massive economic crashes as cities scramble to find new funds for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The root of the problem is the inherent racism in these executive actions.

With airports shifting into the spotlight, where many immigrants and refugees are being detained, and as more and more legal actions are mounted in opposition to this racially-targeted executive order, one can’t help but wonder where the line between upfront racism and “extreme-vetting” is drawn.

What I and numerous concerned students would like to see from the College’s administration is explicit legal and physical support in opposition to government agencies seeking to deport or incriminate students who are suspected by the government for whatever reason. In our increasingly partisan country, seemingly ostensible titles such as “Sanctuary Campus” are more needed than ever to offer support for the minority community.

With groups like the prestigious American Association of University Professors and a Trinity faculty petition of 100 signatures supporting the title, it is therefore important and relevant that Trinity College officially take on the title of Sanctuary Campus. Now, in the coming weeks as sanctuary cities like Hartford continue to face the wrath of our newly elected President of the United States, private institutions like Trinity that are separated from financial ties to the government should lead the way when it comes to the verbose ethical issues that might otherwise incriminate those tied directly to this new, increasingly racist, government.

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