Learning from UMichigan: Why the College must become a sanctuary campus

The beginning of the Trump Presidency has signaled a major shift in American immigration policy, creating uncertainty among undocumented and international students about their statuses as both residents of the United States and, for some, as members of the College community. On Jan. 29, President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Though this executive order has met setbacks in the judicial system, it is representative of growing xenophobia and tightening laws surrounding immigration within the country. It is time for the College to ensure its undocumented and international students that they are safe on campus despite this shift in attitude and policy by committing to keep its students’ information private.

This executive order and the general direction of immigration policy under Trump stand directly contrary to the standards that the College holds as a community. In his response to this executive order, President Adam Falk labeled it as “inconsistent with Williams’ essential values” and said that it “conflicts with our non-discrimination policy.” Simply saying that the executive order is against our community standards is not enough. While he pointed to the support services that the College provides, President Falk did not take a strong stance on the College’s policy regarding either the executive order or potential future immigration policies to be instituted by President Trump.

The approach that President Falk took, while helpful and positive, stands in stark contrast to the approach of University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel. President Mark Schlissel took a strong stance against the executive order, releasing a statement the day after President Trump signed the order. In this statement, he said that the University of Michigan “will not share sensitive information like immigration status, [and] campus police will not inquire about or record immigration status when performing their duties” and “campus police will not partner with federal, state or other local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law except when required to do so by law.” These are concrete actions that the University of Michigan has committed to pursue in order to best help its community respond to the executive order. This makes a strong statement to international and undocumented students that the University of Michigan will do anything and everything in its power to inhibit the marginalization of members of its community.

The College should make a similar statement to its community, detailing specifically the steps and actions it plans to pursue in reaction to this immigration executive order and subsequent bills in the future. This would represent both a strong tangible and symbolic stance that would reassure all members of our community. What makes the University of Michigan’s statement even more remarkable is that, as a public university, it uses state and federal funding as one of its main sources. As a private institution, the College does not use federal or state funding in its daily operations, except in the form of Pell Grants that are awarded to students on individual bases, not to a school. Despite not having this obstacle, the College has declined to take a similarly strong stance against this executive order.

Though the executive order has been halted by the courts for the time being, I believe that the College’s lack of commitment to concrete policy in response to it sets a dangerous precedent moving forward. This is a turbulent time for undocumented and international students. It is likely that a revised version of this executive order will be implemented soon, and more policies that will deeply affect these marginalized groups will likely be put in place as well. It is important that the College take a stronger stand and commit to protecting its students when reacting to future immigration policy passed by President Trump, as only then can all members of the Williams community fully feel the security that is so necessary for us to thrive.

Benjamin Beiers ’20 is  from San Carlos, Calif. He lives in Mills.

  • Augustine25

    Really? If illegal immigrant at the University of Michigan or Williams College rapes or kills someone, Then I expect the survivors will gain some measure of emotional and financial relief from suing the calloused and insensitive administrators who made it harder to enforce existing laws.