Make DePaul a real sanctuary campus

September 18, 2017

Christopher James and Sam Peiffer, writing for the DePaul Socialists, call for a real challenge to federal policies, in a statement published at the DePaulia.

THE DEPAUL Socialists condemn the rescindment of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This racist attack puts some 800,000 people at risk for deportation and violence, and continues President Trump's assault on immigrant communities in the U.S.

DePaul has, in the past, spoken of doing all it can to make sure undocumented students feel welcome. DePaul's previous president, Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., was rightfully criticized in the pages of The DePaulia for saying that DePaul "remains unwavering in our support for undocumented students" without taking concrete actions to stand up to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents or provide real sanctuary to vulnerable students.

We believe that a true commitment to undocumented students would stand in the tradition of the sanctuary movement, which goes back to the 1980s. Standing in the spirit of this movement would necessitate that DePaul and the Vincentian Order house undocumented people fearing deportation in the university church and adjacent Vincentian living spaces. It's nice that the administration wants to provide a welcoming environment for undocumented students, but this should also include doing everything possible to prevent ICE from coming onto DePaul's campuses.

Students and workers march to defend DACA in Chicago
Students and workers march to defend DACA in Chicago

With the new president, A. Gabriel Esteban, the administration has a chance to turn over a new leaf. We should make DePaul a real sanctuary campus, thus putting actions behind the administration's nice words. With Trump's announcement that he would repeal DACA, the new university president sent out an e-mail professing the administration's continued support for undocumented students--we think rhetorical support and encouraging legislative action needs to be accompanied by concrete action in the here and now.

The repeal of DACA affects members of our organization and many DePaul students. We applaud the initiative that Undocumented Vincentians and Allies (UVA) took at the end of last spring--winning a scholarship fund for undocumented students via an increase to the student activities fee--and will stand with future initiatives by student organizations for expansion of the rights of immigrants and for the protection of undocumented people.

But ultimately, all of us should be in this fight. Whatever our immigration status, we have a shared interest in fighting for a greater expansion of the rights of all students on campus. In all honesty, undocumented students deserve a lot more. As some of the most vulnerable members of the university community, undocumented students should have a right to health care, affordable housing and free tuition. All students deserve these things, but especially the most marginalized, precarious members of our community.

We have to defend against this attack, while putting forward a vision of a real inclusive campus, one that can actually put its Vincentian Values into practice. We are skeptical that the university administration will act on its own initiative to ban ICE from campus, house people fearing deportation, or put more of its immense financial resources towards improving the living standards of its most vulnerable students. However, we are conscious of the power students and campus movements have to change university policy and politics, and recognize the potential to pressure DePaul to fully adhere to its supposed Vincentian Values.

First published at the DePaulia.

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