USG votes to make UConn a sanctuary city

Eric Cruz Lopéz celebrates the passage of a USG bill seeking to make UConn, and the surrounding Mansfield community, into a sanctuary city during the senate's biweekly senate meeting in the Student Union on Wednesday night. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Undergraduate Student Government voted Wednesday night to work toward establishing the University of Connecticut as a sanctuary city, meaning the university would not cooperate with federal law if deportations of undocumented students occurred.

The issue of deportation has been widely discussed both at the university and at the national level since Donald Trump won the presidential election on Nov. 8. Deportations of undocumented immigrants was one of the major promises of his campaign. 

Several students attended the undergraduate student senate meeting to speak on the legislation, including undocumented immigrants who helped organize a rally on campus in response to the presidential election last Wednesday.

“I do not want to hear a comment saying that we’re stealing jobs or we are receiving benefits and this and that but the reality is that we don’t get any of those things. We have never received government help or social benefits,” Joseline Tlacomulco, an undocumented student activist, said.

Tlacomulco said she came to the meeting to support the legislation and to dispel myths about undocumented immigrants. Syed Saud, a UConn student who also spoke at senate, acknowledged his privilege as a documented immigrant and explained how difficult the formal immigration process is. Saud said undocumented students are trying to achieve the same goals as any other UConn student.

“You probably couldn’t pick out which one of you is an undocumented student and which one of you is not because we’re here to learn. We’re here to be students,” Saud said.

Eric Cruz Lopez is also an undocumented UConn student and spoke of how his education and future will drastically change if deported.

“I am studying to be a secondary math education teacher and come Jan. 20, I might not have the ability to do so,” Cruz Lopez said.

The motion passed 35-6 with one abstention and had 19 senators as sponsors. Students who spoke hugged and cried once the legislation passed. Senators stood and applauded.

Sen. Vanessa Villar spoke passionately during debate about her concerns of racial profiling on campus if UConn is not established as a sanctuary city.

“It… allows us to have an area for the police to not patrol and stop someone of color and ask them ‘What’s your immigration status?’” Villar said.

Sen. Michael Lanza (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) did not support the legislation because he was concerned that UConn’s federal funding would be compromised if the school defied federal law.

“[Trump] said he wants to freeze federal funding to sanctuary cities in his first 100 days. Maybe that sounds like a threat,” Lanza said.

Lanza affirmed that the school should support its students and he did not oppose the legislation as an endorsement of Trump.

“It’s just a perspective that I felt like probably a lot of people hadn’t necessarily thought of…There’s a lot of noble sentiment behind the bill,” Lanza said.

USG President Dan Byrd, who co-authored the bill, said the next step is gaining more student support and meeting with administration and bringing the idea of a sanctuary city to their attention.

“We want this to be endorsed by University Senate and by the Graduate Student Senate... The other step is to bring the legislation along with Lauren [Oldziej, CLAS Senator and coauthor of the bill] and myself and undocumented student to meetings with President Herbst, to meetings with the police, to meetings with the Dean of Students, with admissions,” Byrd said.

Byrd said the bill’s passage is a building block for further action.

“It goes beyond just passing this. We now have to have the conversation,” Byrd said.


Schae Beaudoin is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at schae.beaudoin@uconn.edu.