Board, President Smith commit to sanctuary campus

The commitment from the college’s Board of Managers and President Valerie Smith to make Swarthmore a sanctuary campus is moving forward through the effort of the Sanctuary Campus Working Group. To some community members, this action is an important step to protecting fellow students, but others see the announcement as self-defeating.
On Dec. 2, in an email statement signed by Chair of the Board of Managers Thomas E. Spock and President Valerie Smith, the college’s Board of Managers and administration announced Swarthmore’s status as a sanctuary campus, aiming to protect undocumented members of the community from anti-immigrant policies of the then-incoming Trump Administration.
Citing growing anxiety and discrimination toward minority groups, Spock and Smith promised in the email announcement that the college would take action to “not voluntarily share student information … [or] grant access to college property to immigration enforcement officials, … not support the enforcement actions of immigration officials on campus, … [it] will not [enroll] in ‘e-verify,’ … and [it] does not make housing decisions based on immigration status and will not do.”
The statement went on to describe Public Safety’s refrain from holding information on individuals’ immigration status and support for the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is the 2012 executive order that allows undocumented immigrants that entered the U.S. as minors to apply for a renewable, two-year permit for residence and work permit eligibility.
By this action, Swarthmore joins a growing number of colleges and universities such as the University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan College, as well as 39 U.S. cities like Washington, D.C., in pledging sanctuary status.
The announcement comes after a petition and a student walkout on Nov. 16 regarding the college’s sanctuary status. A rally on the steps of Parrish Hall demonstrated popular support among students for proposed sanctuary campus policies. Particulars of what student leaders sought from the administration were a guarantee that Public Safety would not aid immigration forces and that financial resources would be provided if legal issues were to arise.
Students took the charge on this initiative as one of the first policies President Trump proposed during his campaign for the Republican nomination for presidency was to deport undocumented immigrants and halt incomers by way of a wall along the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico, which he pledged support for again on Jan. 25.
Roberto Jimenez ’18, who spoke at the walkout, was excited by the college’s commitment.
“I was overjoyed! I am really glad that the Administration has listened to its community’s requests and is taking a stand to protect all of its students as well as they can. Many of us have worked very hard to mobilize and plan for the walkout, petition, etc., and it feels amazing to know that Swarthmore is on our side,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez also described a desire for more student-administration collaboration on the project moving forward.
“I hope that administration can follow through on what it has promised. If possible, [the college should] provide even more protection for members of our community that are going to be negatively affected in the next couple of years,” he said.
The sanctuary campus project was largely propelled online. The student leaders of the walkout utilized an online Google Form to gather petition signatures that was widely shared on Facebook through class and personal pages.
Killian McGinnis ’19, author of the sanctuary campus petition, expressed similar sentiments to Jimenez, and she hoped the college would push for more protections on undocumented individuals.
“There is still lots of work ahead to ensure other protections and measures of support for the community’s undocumented and other particularly vulnerable members. It is heartening to feel that our voices were heard, and that the Board, along with the rest of the community, has pledged to stand with undocumented students in such a concrete way,” she said.
Not all students, however, see the college’s sanctuary campus status as a positive or productive thing. Some argue that the college is simply paving the way for economic challenges in the future in addition to not integrating any new policies that would promote student welfare. Matthew Stein ’20 proposed that the administration’s action is not adequate.
“Honestly my reaction to the administration’s commitment to become a sanctuary campus was just to shrug it off … I don’t really see this declaration as having much of an effect at all in terms of campus policy. It seems to me to be … a symbolic gesture by the administration to affirm its values and to tell students on campus who are illegal immigrants … that they are behind them and support their presence on campus, but in effect, I’m not sure how this changes the college’s policies,” Stein said.
The faculty has also made commitments to students who might be affected by Trump administration policies. Following the administration’s action on sanctuary campus, the college’s faculty unanimously passed a resolution on sanctuary campus on Friday, Dec. 9. The faculty highlighted their desire to maintain undocumented students’ full participation at the college and not just their place as members of the academic community.
“As students of the College, they have a right not only to an education, but to full membership in the campus community, with the same opportunities as their peers. To this end, we re-affirm the policies and values put forth in the Dec. 2, 2016 declaration, including the role of nonviolent action and peaceful protest against repressive government acts and mandates,” the faculty stated in its online announcement.
Concretely, the faculty promised to commit financial resources to undocumented students for periods when payment from employment might not be reliable, travel and other necessities, and legal proceedings for DACA renewals and Advance Parole among others. Further, it has offered to provide emergency housing over academic breaks to undocumented students.
Another major point in the development of Swarthmore’s sanctuary campus is the establishment of the Sanctuary Campus Working Group. This organization is composed of administration members, students, and staff to address the changing needs of community members as policies.
Co-President of the student, faculty, and staff working group on sanctuary campus Miguel Gutierrez ’18 saw this step by the college as a way to acknowledge and include undocumented individuals in the Swarthmore community.
“I see this as a way to start the dialogue about undocumented immigration on campus. I’m glad the campus is becoming aware of our presence here. There are also students who have relatives or have people in their communities who are undocumented. I hope that this gives people the opportunity to talk openly about this issue, and that those who identify with this issue can feel comfortable and welcomed in this campus,” he stated.
Gutierrez further noted how this announcement is a starting place for further protective action by the college.
“We are currently working on letting Swat’s Administration know how they can better support us. I hope that they will create resources such as having access to legal advice and support with our DACA applications,” he stated.
Gutierrez ended on the fact that undocumented students now have a platform to discuss issues visibly.
“Undocumented students haven’t had a strong presence until recently. I hope this community continues to come together to have a stronger voice and not feel like we are another group that is disenfranchised by the United States,” he said.
Other student organizations have made it known that they will be open to the students the the Sanctuary Campus Working Group aims to represent. Dean of the Sophomore Class and Director of the Intercultural Center Jason Rivera commented on how the Intercultural Center plans to take action.
“The Intercultural Center will continue to support all students, including DACA and undocumented students, and we will also continue to advocate for the eradication of any barriers that these students might face as they pursue their education at Swarthmore. We are also extremely grateful to the Board of Managers for their contributions to the Dean’s discretionary fund, a fund that will enable the College to continue to provide financial support to any student in need of assistance to help offset many of the hidden costs associated with attendance at Swarthmore,” Rivera said.
Associate Dean, Diversity, Inclusion & Community Development Shá Duncan Smith
“[Matt Zucker and I] serve together on the Self Study Action committee, which will provide some helpful synergies between the groups where there are common goals. We look forward to keeping the community updated with the Sanctuary Working Group’s progress this term. We are committed to providing ample opportunities for the community to engage in the process and help inform our process,” Duncan Smith said.
Stein said the consequences for the college will be more damaging than what could be gained from founding the sanctuary campus.
“I think the only tangible result [of sanctuary campus] is that Swarthmore could lose some funding. I personally would not support it anyway as I generally would choose to defer to the government’s policy, especially given that any [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] official would probably obtain a warrant before coming here anyway, rendering our ‘sanctuary campus’ label useless,” Stein said.
Stein offered that the college should work with government agencies in a constructive fashion as to minimize antagonism and limit damage to governmental institutions.
“I believe we should scale it back although I recognize, given the left wing nature of the student body and administration, there is absolutely no chance of that happening. I personally won’t do anything moving forward. Overall, I’m not in favor of deporting non-criminal illegal immigrants, but I don’t believe colleges should make it their policy to try to undermine federal agencies who only enforce the laws that are passed. If there is an issue with the law, then those who oppose it should work to change the law, not undermine its enforcement,” Stein said.
The college has promised to take steps to ensure the security of undocumented members of its community is maintained in the event of government action against the group for its members’ immigration status. Faculty and students generally support the measures taken, but many have made their own efforts to make more accommodations or push for more administrative resolutions. Others find that the commitment does not work in an effective way and instead works against national institutions.

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