On Tuesday, the Hechinger Report published a report looking at what actions different U.S. colleges are taking to support undocumented students. Some of these actions included establishing emergency legal funds, and, of course, declaring themselves sanctuary campuses. In the weeks following the election of President Donald Trump, who ran his presidential campaign relying on the promise of the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, numerous colleges declared themselves sanctuary campuses as a promise to protect the rights of these students. In November, the Undergraduate Student Government voted for USC to declare itself one, too.
However, the USC administration, while ensuring that the details and circumstances of its students are kept private from the federal government, has declined to declare the University a sanctuary campus. If USC is unwilling to come forward as a sanctuary campus out of fear of government retaliation or the loss of financial support from its board of trustees, there are other necessary steps it must take to dispel fear among undocumented students, and provide them with the resources and support to ensure these students’ ability to safely pursue education at USC. Establishing a resource center for USC’s undocumented community is a crucial step toward achieving this goal.
The University of Utah, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Western Washington University, San Diego State University, San Francisco State University and the California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo and Pomona have all established resource centers dedicated to providing undocumented students with resources, such as advisement regarding their options and legal rights, support and solidarity.
Even if USC’s administration is opposed to assuming the label of a “sanctuary campus,” it has an obligation to provide students of all backgrounds and circumstances equal access to a safe, quality education. Despite the administration’s promise to retain the privacy of its undocumented students, as well as numerous memos by Provost Michael Quick and President C.L. Max Nikias offering strong verbal support to foreign and undocumented students, it is no secret that undocumented students across the nation continue to live in fear.
In fact, according to state officials, applications for California Dream Act financial aid at California’s community college system are down more than 40 percent from last year, largely because students fear identifying as undocumented in case they put themselves and their families at risk of deportation.
These numbers suggest that the institutionalized intimidation of undocumented immigrants is disproportionately harmful to students, and could contribute to less socioeconomically diverse college campuses — to the detriment of all students. Additionally, policies and rhetoric that threaten undocumented students promote cycles of poverty in communities of undocumented immigrants by discouraging higher education or plainly rendering it impossible.
As the latest numbers released by state officials demonstrate, anxiety among undocumented students who fear deportation from a vehemently anti-immigration government has resulted in many being deterred from achieving higher education. This fact highlights the need for institutions like USC to ensure that students are educated about their rights. Establishing a resource center would readily provide students with legal counseling, help with financial aid forms and provides a safe, positive space during their undergraduate years.
Such an investment would ensure that undocumented students, having overcome major challenges to attend such a prestigious institution as USC, are granted the same educational opportunities as their peers.
USC’s commitment to ensuring undocumented students’ legal statuses are a matter of confidentiality is an important step toward protecting their rights and guaranteeing their ability to receive a Trojan education. However, we cannot ignore that this presidential administration has instilled so much fear among undocumented students and has attacked their rights to exist in this country — let alone receive an education.
Declaring the University as a sanctuary campus would be a crucial step toward ensuring an environment of safety and tolerance. But whether or not USC is a sanctuary campus in name, it has an obligation to provide the resources of one if it truly seeks to protect the diversity and environment of inclusivity that makes USC the elite institution of higher learning that it is.
Daily Trojan Spring 2017 Editorial Board