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Member Advisory

November 21, 2016

HACU Urges Colleges and Universities and School Districts to Become Sanctuary Communities

The rhetoric of this year’s elections has been unsettling for immigrants and people of color, particularly for undocumented workers and their families. This is being exacerbated by post-election pronouncements and reported nominations or appointments to key positions by President-elect Trump. The expressed intent of rescinding a number of President Obama’s executive orders, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provisions, has triggered untold consternation among an estimated 750,000 DACA-protected youth and countless more that didn’t apply for such protection out of fear. These young people, brought to this country as minors, many as babies, by other adults, have not broken any law; for the most part, the United States is the only country they know. HACU urges its membership and indeed all colleges and universities, as well as school districts, to become sanctuary communities to reassure and protect undocumented immigrants from the prospect of deportation.

From its inception, the United States has been a nation of immigrants. The influx of people from across the world has been the driving force of America’s creativity and innovation. This continuous renewal of talent and industriousness has made America the most powerful and richest nation in human history. Welcoming hard-working immigrants is part of this nation’s DNA and history. However, this American tradition that has been sustained over centuries is now under attack, seemingly because the overwhelming majority of the immigrant population changed from mainly western European to Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, African and other non-Anglo populations. Although this country has a history of racial discrimination dating back to its genesis as a nation-state, it has sacrificed millions of lives in wars at home and abroad to become a better people, including 620 thousand combatants in the Civil War to eliminate slavery. The rhetoric and proposed policies on immigration emanating from the President-elect and his inner circle are on the wrong side of America’s history. HACU and its leadership will continue to strive for the protection of our best national traditions and interests.

Keeping DACA immigrants and their families together and improving their lives is good for America. By definition, they are among the most vetted and productive people in our midst. They study and work hard; because of their tenuous status, they play by the rules like no other demographic. Communities across the land have invested greatly in their education and training to meet the demands of our labor force. They often do some of the least desirable jobs that others reject. It is in the best interest of the country to keep these hard-working, law-abiding immigrants who have been raised and educated as Americans. They have proven themselves.

In fact, untold numbers of them have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. For instance, one of the first American casualties in the Iraq war was a Hispanic, Lance Cpl. Jose Antonio Gutierrez, at age 22. A Guatemalan immigrant who arrived undocumented to Los Angeles at the age of 14, he was granted legal residency four years later. After high school, he attended community college and enlisted in the Marines. He was granted citizenship posthumously.

Coincidentally, his adopted city of Los Angeles is also the first sanctuary city on record. On March 20, 1979, the Board of Police Commissioners passed a resolution to refrain from inquiring into the immigrant status of any resident or from reporting undocumented immigrants to federal authorities, unless they commit a serious crime; this policy was reaffirmed by the City Council. Since then, numerous other cities from Alaska to Florida, New York to California, Wisconsin to Texas, and in most of the other 50 states have become sanctuary cities.

Based on America’s best values and traditions as exemplified by sanctuary cities, colleges, universities, and school districts are called to become sanctuary campus communities to protect young immigrants from the fear of deportation and to embrace them and their families as treasured human beings worthy of our fraternity and respect. The leadership of each college/university and school district should follow their own conscience and protocols in deciding whether to declare their respective institutions sanctuary communities. But, in good conscience, doing nothing is not an option.   

HACU Member Advisories are a service of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).