Students at Maryland colleges are petitioning school officials to protect undocumented immigrants on their campuses from new threats under a Trump administration. Some of their administrators appear to share the same concerns.
Last week, Towson, University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University students all took time to protest the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.
This week, petitions are arising from these same schools, among others, to protect their peers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Maryland DREAM Act. President Obama issued DACA as an executive order in 2012 and extended it in 2014; it allows people who arrived in the country illegally before age 16 to receive renewable permits to stay here work or study without being deported. While a federal DREAM Act has never been passed, Maryland voters passed their own version in 2012 that guarantees undocumented residents in-state tuition if they attend high school in the state for at least three years and meet other requirements.
The petitions have arisen because Trump has repeatedly promised to deport millions of illegal immigrants. Even though federal officials have said it is unlikely the president-elect will send officers into college dorms to remove students, students want their administrators to take action to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Specifically, the petitions ask school administrators to make their colleges “sanctuary campuses,” an unofficial designation similar to “sanctuary cities,” that protect undocumented students from deportation. At the University of Maryland, a petition asks UMD President Wallace Loh and Provost Mary Ann Rankin to adopt a series of new policies to protect undocumented students. At Towson and Johns Hopkins, similar petitions created by student groups call for their school presidents to designate their campuses as sanctuaries for undocumented staff, students and faculty.
So far, UMD President Loh has voiced his backing for such protections. According to the Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper, he sent an email yesterday to the student body that said support of undocumented students “is not only the right thing to do. It is the necessary thing to do.” He wrote that “UMD is committed to reaching out and providing educational opportunities to academically-qualified persons of all backgrounds and walks of life. We are an immigrant nation, one formed from many.”
Towson’s administration has not returned a request for comment on their response to the student petition. JHU, meanwhile, has already issued a statement on the school’s Hub website noting it “takes seriously the concerns” of students and adding that “we will be following closely the implications of a possible change in the DACA executive order.”
JHU President Ronald J. Daniels, Loyola University Maryland President Brian Linnane, S.J., UMD President Loh and University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski are among more than 200 college administrators who have signed a letter to President-elect Trump asking him to uphold and extend DACA protections for students.
It’s unclear whether a “sanctuary campus” status, much like a “sanctuary city” status here in Baltimore, could do much in the face of a major shift in national deportation policy. But evidently, the students aren’t the only ones concerned about protecting the futures of undocumented college students here in Maryland.
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