With the recent storm of executive orders and talk of building a wall between Mexico and the United States coming from the White House this week, undocumented students at the University of Nevada, Reno, are concerned for their futures in U.S. education.
Last semester, the UNR Latinx Student Advisory Board held a campus demonstration and presentation of a petition in an attempt to call on university administration to make UNR a sanctuary campus. However, university president Marc Johnson released a statement early last month saying, “The concept of a sanctuary campus at a public institution does not have a foundation in law or policy.”
While he did not name UNR a sanctuary campus, Johnson has assured university staff, faculty and students that the university is committed to protecting undocumented students who are under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order creating DACA in order to allow undocumented students to attend school within the U.S. without facing the threat of deportation.
DACA students are undocumented students that have come to the United States before turning 16. These students are given permission to attend school and are given work permits and a social security number.
“DACA is not a law,” said Jackeline Durón, a student at UNR and active member of LSAB. “I want people to understand that DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals which is an executive order by President Barack Obama meaning that it could be redacted and eliminated under current President Donald Trump and he has said before that he does not support the continuation of the program.”
Throughout the presidential campaign, President Trump has promised to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. in an attempt to halt all illegal immigration. Trump has also said he would eliminate the DACA program from colleges and universities.
While Trump has not yet spoken about DACA, he promised in his Jan. 11, press conference that a wall, not a fence, would be built on the border.
In addition to his promises regarding the wall, Trump enacted an executive order on Friday restricting the entry of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.
Trump said he was creating the ban to prevent domestic terror attacks within the United States.
On Saturday night, a federal judge granted an emergency stay to citizens of the seven banned countries who had already arrived in the U.S., those who were in transit to the U.S. and hold valid visas.
The ban also included barring all Syrian refugees from the U.S., “until further notice.” The U.S. refugee program has been suspended for 120 days and the executive order states that Syrian refugees may not enter the U.S. until their admission into the country is deemed “consistent with the national interest.”
Trump’s ban drew protests at airports and cities across the United States and the criticism of several human rights groups.
In Reno, Reno Solidarity Network hosted “Bridges not Walls- No Bans, No Walls,” a protest against Trump’s latest ban and planned wall.
“I urge President Johnson to reconsider and declare UNR a sanctuary campus because now more than ever our community needs to know that all people, immigrants, refugees and undocumented folks are safe and welcome on our campus,” Durón said. “We’ve seen an outpour of xenophobia stemming from President Trump’s executive orders and a public support of President Johnson is necessary in this political climate to center people first.”
Durón said she and LSAB would not rest in their fight to protect undocumented students, but they are happy with university administration’s decision to create a DACA coordinator position to assist undocumented students through any problems the Trump administration may cause for them.
“They did create the DACA coordinator position for students, it is not just serving students who have DACA or undocumented students, it is for everyone. We commend the administration and President Johnson for creating the position because it is really putting their money where their mouth is and if they are going to support students, it is usually financially and having this position means that someone is going to be directly helping students and their families.”
Durón said the new DACA coordinator position and the university’s pledge to support DACA as an executive order gives the needed support to undocumented students, however she worries it might not be enough if Trump decides to eliminate the order.
“[President Johnson] supporting DACA if there is no more DACA [means] that support did not really matter, but it does matter that they do care enough and they are supportive enough of their students that they created the position,” Durón said. “For that, we definitely thank Marc Johnson and administrators.”
Durón said LSAB will now focus on supporting efforts to make the city of Reno a sanctuary city and will be hosting panels on Trump’s executive orders and how they are impacting people in Nevada and across the country.