University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler affirmed support for undocumented citizens Wednesday in a response to a petition calling for the school to be made a sanctuary campus that circulated last week.
The petition, signed by more than 1,500 University students, staff and faculty, is part of a national movement calling for university administrators to protect undocumented students.
On Nov. 21, Kaler joined more than 400 university presidents nationwide in signing a statement supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which defers deportation proceedings against some undocumented young people who were brought to the country as minors.
“The University will stay true to its values and advocate for our undocumented students, international students and all members of our community,” Kaler said in his response to the petition. “While it is too early to know what, if any, changes will be made to U.S. immigration laws after the new Congress and president take office in January, we will continue to provide information and resources to help all members of our community.”
Minnesota Student Association President Abeer Syedah, who helped write the petition, said Kaler’s statement was the strong response the University needed.
The statement did not address the petition’s specific requests of the University, which included preventing the University of Minnesota Police Department from working with U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement agents and shielding international students’ personal information.
“It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the University to make a stance on a hypothetical,” Syedah said. “But if and when we start to see things that impose on the community, then I think it’s going to be important for very direct and very specific responses.”
Syedah worked with an unofficial group of faculty on the petition. She said the petition was spurred by President-elect Donald Trump’s rhetoric — which included threats to repeal DACA — throughout the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s campaign website details a 10-point immigration plan, which includes ending sanctuary cities and terminating President Obama’s executive amnesty orders.
Ryan Allen, associate professor of public policy in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, signed the petition and was part of the group of faculty members and staff who worked with Syedah on the petition.
“One of the overwhelming concerns on the part of faculty was they had students who were expressing a real fear about what the outcome meant for their personal safety and, in some cases, what it meant for their ability to stay in the United States,” he said.
In a Nov. 28 statement posted to Facebook Wednesday, representatives from La Raza Student Cultural Center, the Queer Student Cultural Center and Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee called for a stronger push for campus to be declared a sanctuary campus.
The statement said the groups hope to expand the platform of the sanctuary campus movement to include all marginalized groups.
“This movement may have started with undocumented students seeking safety on their respective campuses around the country, but it will grow into a movement in which all marginalized students will work together for their collective liberation from oppressive power structures,” the statement read.