Students at more than 100 colleges and universities throughout the country – including in Massachusetts – staged a walkout on Wednesday, protesting the election of Donald Trump and standing in solidarity with undocumented students who could face deportation under President-elect Trump’s immigration policies.
On the stump, candidate Trump promised to deport those in the country illegally and threatened to defund self-described sanctuary cities.
The walkouts on college campuses were organized by Movimiento Cosecha, a Boston-based advocacy organization whose goal is to establish “permanent protection, respect, and dignity of all immigrants,” according to the group’s website.
At Tufts University in Medford, dozens of students marched hoping to put pressure on the administration to take steps to protect undocumented students.
“I want to be able to walk and not feel afraid,”said Alejanda King, an undocumented student at Tufts, who is originally from Mexico. “I want all the student population to feel welcome and to feel that their parents are undocumented, they can come and visit them on campus.”
Since Tuesday’s election, more than 2,600 students, faculty and staff at Tufts have signed a petition, urging administrators to “take immediate steps to make Tufts University a sanctuary campus for all undocumented community members.”
Thousands of students and faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Harvard University, Smith College and other schools in New England have signed similar petitions, asking administrators to protect students who were granted temporary deportation relief through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
Many fear those protections could disappear under the Trump administration. Although the petitions vary, they all call on administrators to shield students from immigration enforcement actions.
Petitioners are also asking administrators not to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
The American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 colleges and universities, recommends schools review their policies on immigrant students, but says it’s premature to predict what the Trump administration might do about those who are undocumented and whether colleges that don’t cooperate with federal law could lose their funding.
Despite that uncertainty, immigration experts say it’s important that colleges are proactive.
“I think there is a balance between not fueling panic because we don’t know specifically what he is going to do, but I think it is important to have an action plan and to start looking at different procedures that can be put into place,” said Philip Torrey, a lecturer with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program and the Supervising Attorney for the Harvard Immigration Project.
One step colleges could take, Torrey said, is to prevent federal officials from arresting students on campus by requiring a warrant.
[Cross-posted at On Campus: the WGBH News Higher Education Blog]