An online letter asking USC administrators to declare USC a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented students, staff and family members has garnered nearly 3,500 signatures. The letter, which was addressed to President C. L. Max Nikias, Provost Michael Quick and Vice President of Student Affairs Ainsley Carry, follows numerous declarations by President-elect Donald Trump stating that he plans to deport millions of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States.
The authors of the document include professors George Sanchez, Jody Agius Vallejo, Manuel Pastor and Oliver Mayer and El Centro Chicano Director Billy Vela.
“Immigrants and their children are a vital part of society,” the letter stated. “[Trump’s] policies will break up families, devastate communities, and have lasting consequences on the civic vitality and economic growth of our city, region, state and nation.”
The authors wrote that by becoming a sanctuary campus, USC will follow Mayor Eric Garcetti’s statement that Los Angeles will remain a sanctuary city in the case that the president-elect and his cabinet carry out deportations.
Noha Ayoub, a sophomore majoring in law, history and culture, said that she signed the petition because she views it as a protection of human rights.
“The right to an education and political amnesty is a human right that should not be contingent on a vote,” Ayoub said. “I firmly believe that people have a right to move freely in order to ensure their own safety even if that movement isn’t always ‘legal.’”
In a sanctuary city, there are policies in place that prevent law enforcement from prosecuting undocumented immigrants. The Los Angeles Times reported that in 1979, Los Angeles became the first city in the U.S. to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.
The letter stipulates that by declaring itself a “sanctuary campus,” USC would not allow authorities to enter campus and would not report the immigration status of its students, staff and their families if asked to provide that information.
Quick wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan that USC values diversity among its students, faculty and staff, but did not state whether the University would accept the requests listed in the letter.
“We will continue to be guided by our Principles of Community, which affirms USC as a safe and compassionate place representing a rich diversity of beliefs, identities and experiences,” Quick wrote. “To that end, I want to assure the USC community that we will continue to uphold current law and University policies. We will consider any future changes with our community’s best interests at the forefront.”
Antoinette Bailey, a freshman majoring in Middle East studies and global studies, said she signed the letter because of the impact it would bear on undocumented students’ education.
“We’re in college, and there’s already so much we have to worry about: our grades, extracurriculars, careers, student loans — the list could go on and on,” Bailey said. “The last thing students need is to be burdened by fear of deportation when they have already long established themselves in this country.”
The letter concluded by quoting an email that Quick sent to the student body following the outcome of the presidential election. Quick stated that “all of us are responsible for creating a university community of inclusion, equity, and justice,” and the organizers of the letter said that this call to action can be honored by declaring USC a sanctuary campus.
Lynn Wang, a junior majoring in environmental studies, said that the petition’s existence is progress within itself.
“At the very minimum, this has started some discussion regarding this topic,” Wang said. “I hope that this letter starts conversation about the resources available to undocumented students.”