Study body, USG continue push for sanctuary city status

Administrators have yet to respond to student demands that the University of Connecticut become a sanctuary city for undocumented students and their families, said Eric Cruz Lopéz, a member of CT Students for a Dream.

UConn student Eric Cruz Lopez asks students for a verbal commitment to support future protests at the end of the "Rally for the People" on Nov. 9, 2016. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Lopéz is a fifth-semester secondary math education major who helped organize the anti-Trump protest attended by over 500 demonstrators on Nov. 9. One of “Rally for the People’s” demands was that UConn become a sanctuary city by the end of the calendar year. This would mean that university police would not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other officers pursuing undocumented immigrants in Mansfield, Lopéz said.

“There’s countless cities across the country that have done this and being that the University of Connecticut is in a way its own city, it has its own zip code, we believe it is an action the university should take,” Lopéz said.

Student activists gave university officials the December 31 deadline to give them time to come up with a solution while the university heals following the election of President-elect Donald Trump, Lopéz.

Multicultural and Diversity Senator Vanessa Villa of the Undergraduate Student Government said she expects a formal list of demands from the organizers of “Rally for the People” to be sent to UConn administrators after Thanksgiving Break.

According to Trump’s 100 day plan, his administration will cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities and begin deporting over two million undocumented immigrants on his first day in office, January 20, 2017. Trump has also promised to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and to either cancel or allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to expire, exposing over 600,000 undocumented students to deportation.

USG Student body president Dan Byrd, who co-authored Undergraduate Student Government legislation in support of “Rally for the People’s” demands, said that while he doesn’t think Trump will follow through on his promise to cancel federal funding to sanctuary cities, UConn needs to stand by its undocumented students no matter what. There are about 100 students attending UConn under DACA, Byrd said.

“We need to do the right thing despite Donald Trump’s threats,” Byrd said. “These are people who were brought to the United States at three months old, two years old. This is their home, this is what they know.”

The legislation, scheduled to be put to a vote on Wednesday night, requests that UConn support undocumented students by issuing an action plan for what will happen if a student is deported and becomes a sanctuary city. This would involve both the university and the town of Mansfield instructing their departments and police forces not to assist the federal government in identifying undocumented immigrants.

“We want both parts to be working cooperatively in making sure that we are not cooperating with the federal government in terms of determining immigration status,” Byrd said.

Unlike existing sanctuary cities such as New Haven and San Francisco, which maintain their own police forces, Mansfield falls under the jurisdiction of the Connecticut State Police. Once the legislation has passed, USG will look further into how Mansfield can regulate policing within the municipality.

UConn’s chief diversity officer, Joelle Murchison, said that the university is currently investigating the student body’s demands.

“We are actively working to identify answers to the organizers’ questions posed at the rally, including understanding the process should a university student be notified of deportation,” Murchison said in a statement provided by university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz.

The university will keep students updated as more information is gathered and ready to be released, according to an email from Reitz.


Kimberly Armstrong is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.