As the semester comes to an end, there is one issue that will continue after finals are through and most of campus has returned home for the holidays — whether or not the University of Nevada, Reno, will become a sanctuary campus.
Doing so would make UNR one of 31 current colleges and universities to declare themselves safe havens for undocumented students, faculty and staff. In light of the election and the hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric that has spewed forth from our president-elect, UNR must take the next step to ensure that one of our most vulnerable student populations remain safe and able to complete their education.
The call for sanctuary status was sounded by UNR’s Latinx Student Advisory Board, which created a petition that has now gathered upwards of 1,000 signatures. The petition calls for UNR to, among other things, “Refuse [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] physical access to all land owned or controlled by the university and all voluntary sharing of information with ICE/ CBP across all aspects of the university to the fullest extent possible under the law.”
Although UNR President Marc Johnson has signed his name to a petition co-signed by 500 other university presidents calling for an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, at the end of the day a signature is not enough. These DACA students, along with DREAMers, need to know that their campus will protect them.
According to the American Immigration Council, approximately 65,000 undocumented youths graduate high school every year. Yet, Pew Hispanic Center reports that only 49 percent of undocumented high school graduates attend college, compared to 71 percent of American-born residents.
Once in college, undocumented students face barriers that American-born students do not. Despite being raised in this country, knowing it as their home and wanting to cash in on the opportunities theoretically afforded them, they must reckon with the fact that they lack the basic forms of identification and documentation that many of us take for granted.
College is difficult enough; living away from home, adjusting to heavy academic loads and working part time or more is enough to push any student to their limits. No student needs to add to these existing challenges the fear of deportation.
Moreover, DREAMers and students protected by DACA often didn’t ask to come to the United States illegally and were instead brought over as young children. They often live a vast majority of their lives as Americans, and to deport one of these students to a Latin America that they don’t know is absurd. Additionally, DACA and the DREAM Act do provide legal status for students that can lead to permanent citizenship.
The university’s job is not to take sides in a partisan debate, its job is to ensure students who seek an education here leave the institution with the degrees and knowledge necessary to pursue their goals. The fact is that some of these students are undocumented. Regardless of their legal status, all students deserve the opportunity to earn their degrees with the same amount of safety and security.
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