Student activists call for further protection of undocumented students

The Board of Trustees held their monthly meeting to discuss current affairs regarding the UConn community. Many students came to speak in support of undocumented students to ensure that the university will be considered a sanctuary city. Farzana Zubair, 7th-semester human development and family studies major, speaks at the meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The Board of Trustees held their monthly meeting to discuss current affairs regarding the UConn community. Many students came to speak in support of undocumented students to ensure that the university will be considered a sanctuary city. Farzana Zubair, 7th-semester human development and family studies major, speaks at the meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Student activists called for the University of Connecticut to continue efforts to protect undocumented students at the Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday morning.

“I would like for this university to commit to working with us and making this campus feel comfortable and safe for undocumented students,” Luna Romani, a senior political science major, said. “As a proud Husky, I would like for my university to be a safe and supporting space for everyone.”

Since the election of Donald Trump as president, groups of student organizers have advocated for the university to declare itself a sanctuary city for undocumented students. On Tuesday afternoon, UConn President Herbst released a statement via email explaining updated policies for undocumented students.

Herbst’s email stated her support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Herbst said the university cannot officially declare itself a “sanctuary city” but can take many actions that are essential to the principle.

“UConn is doing those things which are the essential elements of the sanctuary policies that have been adopted in several large U.S. cities,” Herbst wrote. “Those elements include: law enforcement policies that do not question the immigration status of those who seek police assistance, law enforcement not detaining individuals based on civil immigration holds, confidentiality of records that include immigration status and the issuance of photographic identification to facilitate access to services.”

Student organizer and secondary math-education major Eric Cruz Lopez commended Herbst for steps already taken, especially supporting DACA, but said he was dissatisfied with how much time and effort it required to get a response.

“I also do want to acknowledge that a lot of these things and a lot of the movement around undocumented students has happened because of student work and student organizing work that has happened around campus,” Cruz Lopez said. “That being said, I am looking forward to working with the administration and the Board of Trustees.”

Undergraduate Student Government (http://dailycampus.com/stories/2016/11/17/usg-votes-to-make-uconn-a-sanctuary-city ) , the University Senate (http://dailycampus.com/stories/?author=57e343e2414fb59aeacd53b0 ) and UConn’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) each put out statements in support of UConn becoming a sanctuary city in the past week.

Cruz Lopez asked that UConn have a formal written plan on specifics of what the university would do in the case of a student being deported. He also thanked the University of Connecticut Police Department for not arresting students on administrative immigration orders.

“We ask and demand that the university not honor (U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) detainers and that the university and the Board of Trustees ask the University of Connecticut Police Department not to honor ICE detainers,” Cruz Lopez said.

UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said it has been the university police department’s practice for years to not concern itself with immigration status, but it was just recently that the policy was formally written down and adopted.

President Herbst’s email announcement listed this formal date as Dec. 2.

“It’s just not generally been a part of (UCPD’s) work,” Reitz said. “A student’s immigration status really has no bearing on what it does in investigating an offense or talking to a witness or providing a service.”

UConn will refrain from detaining people for ICE except in cases that there was a court order to do so, Reitz said.

“If it’s a civil detainer (the detention) would not be something that we would participate in,” Reitz said. “UConn Police have to cooperate with criminal warrants issued by the court but civil detainers, civil actions, are not part of its purvey. That’s really the part of the federal government and that would be on them.”

Further changes to UConn’s policies could come from discussions with Student Affairs and other groups, Reitz said.

“By way of having our student leaders here, by creating an open dialogue between the university and the students, and between the university and its faculty, and the the administration and the larger state, we create an environment in which people in marginalized positions and positions of vulnerability do have a voice,” student activist and senior human development and family studies major Farzana Zubair said.

Board Chair Lawrence McHugh thanked the students for their presentations.

“From the Board of Trustees, I want to thank all of your for your presentations and also not only for your commitment to your cause, but more important, your commitment to working with the university to make it better for all its students,” McHugh said.


Christopher McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.