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ASUCI Senate Asks Administration to Make UCI Sanctuary Campus

In response to growing fears over the fate of undocumented students under President Donald Trump, ASUCI Senate passed a resolution last Tuesday, Jan. 24 urging UC Irvine administration to officially designate the university a sanctuary campus.

More than 600 undocumented students currently attend UCI, representing about one-fifth of the 3,000 undocumented students across the UC system’s ten campuses. Many are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients who, under the program, have been largely protected from deportation. Designating UCI a sanctuary campus would discourage local law enforcement, including UCIPD officers, from cooperating with federal immigration officials in matters concerning student deportation.

If approved by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI would demonstrate its status as a sanctuary campus by “condemning and rejecting the presence of Customs and Border Patrol [and] US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on campus, and any other direct connection with organizations that would hinder the safety of undocumented/DREAMers/AB540 students,” according to the legislation, R52-36.

UCI’s undocumented community and allies have protested Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) on campus in the past; in October 2015, CBP was invited to an on-campus career fair, but voluntarily withdrew after backlash from Undocumented Anteaters and other student protesters.

“Undocumented students and other students on campus have been directly impacted by the actions of CBP and ICE and have been greatly affected by the separation (or fear of separation) of their families and violence experienced,” according to the legislation. “[CBP’s] presence caused emotional and mental distress to students who were previously planning to attend the fair, and it obstructed students’ safety.”

ASUCI Social Ecology Senator Michael Bender was the only Senator to abstain from voting on the resolution, after expressing a concern regarding immigration enforcement agents as guest speakers.

“If [a] professor would have an ICE agent or a Border Patrol agent [as a speaker in class], is this [resolution] rejecting their presence as a speaker to help with students that might want to go into that field after graduating?” asked Bender.

Humanities Senator Elsie Castillejos countered that although undocumented students are not a majority on campus, UCI administration must value their right to a safe education.

“The worry is that undocumented students would be unprotected if CBP was brought onto campus,” said Castillejos. “For example, when [CBP] was brought to the Career Fair, undocumented students felt like they could not attend.”

The day after ASUCI’s vote, on Jan. 25, President Trump signed an executive order cutting federal funds to sanctuary jurisdictions. In the order, Trump listed illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds as his priorities for deportation, characterizing “many… aliens” as “criminals who have served time in our Federal, State, and local jails.” It is unclear whether non-criminal DACA recipients will become targets for deportation, or whether a sanctuary campus, as opposed to a city or county, qualifies as a “jurisdiction” at risk of losing federal funds.

However, in light of Trump’s executive order, several UCI students expressed concern over ASUCI’s support of the undocumented community, including President of College Republicans at UCI (CRUCI), Ariana Rowlands.  

By passing this bill, we may not only put our school as an institution at risk, but the [sic] all students, regardless of status, will suffer,” wrote Rowlands in a post on CRUCI’s Facebook page on Thursday, Jan. 26, two days after the resolution was passed. “The effort to prevent this bill’s passage has bipartisan support, as it could potentially devastate UC Irvine. Seeing as the bill has majority support, our compromise is that all we’re asking for is a shift in legal wording, which will prevent the [federal government] from shutting down funding.”

The resolution was sent to UCI’s Chancellor and Vice Chancellor for consideration. While no UC campus has yet been designated an official sanctuary campus, several student governments have passed resolutions of support and many UC leaders have expressed solidarity with undocumented students since Trump’s November election.

Given the many public pronouncements made during [Trump’s] presidential campaign and its aftermath, we felt it necessary to reaffirm that UC will act upon its deeply held conviction that all members of our community have the right to work, study, and live safely and without fear at all UC locations,” said UC President Janet Napolitano in a November 2016 statement.

During the UC Board of Regents meeting on Jan. 25, hours after the announcement of Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities, a number of Regents echoed her sentiment.

“[Trump] has certain views on immigration… DACA,” said UC Regent George Kieffer. “We are going to be opposite of him on many issues.”