Undergraduate Student Government Senator Kate Oh, along with Senator and Speaker Pro Tempore Paul Samaha, introduced a resolution calling on administration to designate USC a sanctuary campus during Tuesday evening’s USG Senate meeting.
The resolution states that “USG calls on the university administration to explicitly label the University of Southern California a sanctuary campus, publicly and unequivocally declaring the University’s support for and protection of undocumented students, staff and their families on campus.”
It also calls on the University to make sure that students who have utilized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will retain aid and support, regardless of whether the program is slashed. The resolution further requests that the university administration not release information about student and staff immigration status and not yield to authorities who attempt deportations or raids.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has already designated L.A. as a sanctuary city, which does not have a specific legal meaning, but rather signifies that the city will take steps to ensure that undocumented people living within it will not face federal prosecution by that city’s officials simply due to their immigration status. There are, however, other steps that a city, or by extension USC, can take to provide shelter for immigrants.
“One thing [the administration] is considering is having legal aid for undocumented students, staff, et cetera,” Senator Sabrina Enriquez said. “That could also mean having an undocumented [students] resource center, or renewing the lease on the university church; it is the only place on campus that has autonomy currently, which means federal agents could not enter the church, as it is a sacred space.”
Enriquez also brought up that historically, USC has made a different choice regarding the safety of at-risk groups on campus. During the World War II era, Japanese and Japanese American students and staff on campus were not provided sanctuary by then President Rufus B. Von KleinSmid. Rather, Von KleinSmid supported the internment of these students, and also prevented them from being able to transfer to Midwestern schools by preventing their transcripts from being sent, according to Enriquez.
“We heard what happened with the Japanese internment camps, how USC complied with that, and we don’t want to be on the wrong side of history again,” Samaha said. “We have a chance to help lead a wave of schools that will protect their undocumented students and to help lead a national change as well.”
Oh also gave an update on her projects, including the implementation of an Asian Pacific Islander and Desi American special interest floor next year in Birnkrant Residential College. She also plans to work with Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services to have a more thorough discussion about consent with students.
“Title IX works on prevention and education, but I really did not see that happening,” Oh said. “Especially as an RA; usually RAs take their residents during Welcome Week to have a discussion of consent, but that didn’t happen this year.”
USG President Edwin Saucedo gave a report on the projects he is working on. He first brought up the possibility of expanding available resources for first-generation college students, proposing the possibility of a resource center. Saucedo said that many of the current resources available for students who were the first in their families to go to college are specifically aimed at those who either have scholarships or are of certain ethnicities.
Saucedo also brought up the ongoing discussion around the possible addition of a fall break, separate from the one during Thanksgiving. The proposed break would take place around the eighth week of school, when there is an increased number of students visiting the counseling center.
USG Senator Emily Lee gave a presentation on a few initiatives she has been able to implement, including recycling bins in USC housing, extended dining hours at Parkside Cafe and Grill and a public Senate voting record. She is looking into possibly banning styrofoam use within USG and figuring out a way to help residents in first-year communities who are required to purchase full meal plans but are unable to afford meals during breaks when dining halls are closed.