Student Petition Seeks Immigrant Protections

A petition calling for the university to guarantee the rights and safety of students without documentation and “oppressed and targeted communities” has amassed about 600 student signatures as of Wednesday.

In light of President-elect Donald Trump’s victory three weeks ago, a group of students without documentation and their allies formed the GU Sanctuary Movement, which launched the petition on Nov. 23. The online petition, addressed to University President John J. DeGioia, lists 22 demands to the university and the Georgetown University Police Department.

The letter asks for the university to refuse to cooperate with the Immigrant Customs Enforcement and Department of Homeland Security, as well as make its recently appointed part-time undocumented student coordinator into a full-time administrator.

The petition also demands that the university designate an all-gender bathroom in each building, institute cultural competency training for all Counseling and Psychiatric Services staff, increase the budget for the Academic Resource Center’s service of first-generation students, establish a course in American Sign Language and support mandatory teach-ins for professors on how to respond to racism in the classroom.

“We, the undersigned members of the Georgetown community, write to encourage you to take the necessary steps for Georgetown to become a sanctuary by making a commitment to the human rights, safety, and dignity of every Georgetown student and employee, as well as their families,” the letter reads.

Members of the Georgetown Sanctuary Campus Movement will march from Red Square to DeGioias’s office to deliver the letter today at 2:30 p.m.

The petition comes after DeGioia sent a campuswide email Nov. 29 affirming the university’s support for students without documentation within the limits of the law.

“I wish to encourage each of us to recommit ourselves to supporting one another — to working together to do all that we can to ensure that our community is a place of deep care for each person, especially those who feel most vulnerable,” DeGioia wrote. “In this moment, we remain dedicated to harnessing the resources of our university to pursue and promote the common good.”

DeGioia signed a statement in support of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program on Nov. 21.

Senior Director for Strategic Communications Rachel Pugh said DeGioia will continue to work with members of the student population to meet their needs.

“In recent weeks, senior leaders including President DeGioia have met with members of our community about a range of concerns related to our undocumented students,” Pugh wrote in an e-mail to The Hoya. “All of our students, faculty, and staff are deeply valued members of this community and we will continue to explore how we can best support and care for all members of our community.”

The GU Sanctuary Movement said university employees and groups have supported some of the ideas for the measures outlined in the petition.

“The administration has been very responsive,” the GU Sanctuary Movement wrote in a statement to The Hoya. “We’ve been working with them and GUSA throughout the process, including members of the Undocumented Students Task Force, CAPS staff and GUPD officers. A lot of the measures are already in progress to some extent, and we’re looking forward to working with the administration on carrying out the rest of them.”

The petition is based on a suggestion by the immigrant rights organization Cosecha Movement’s website as part of an effort to encourage universities to declare themselves sanctuary campuses.

Reed College, Columbia University and Portland State University in Oregon are among a number of universities that have declared themselves sanctuary campuses since the presidential election results.

Alexis Larios (COL ’18), co-chair of Chicano advocacy group MEChA de Georgetown and a supporter of the petition, said the letter works to build on some of the steps the university has taken in regard to immigrants.

The Hoya reported Nov. 23  that the university appointed Arelis Palacios, currently serving as senior associate director of programming and advising for the Office of Global Education, as a part-time coordinator for undocumented students.

“We recently had a petition to hire an undocumented student coordinator to help with legal issues and financial aid,” Larios said. “The letter includes things like making that from a part-time position to a full-time position. We are building on the work we’ve already done.”

According to Larios, Georgetown needs to take the lead in supporting undocumented students to be an example for other educational institutions around the country.

“Our university has taken a lot of steps so far in the right direction in terms of voicing support for marginalized students,” Larios said. “At University of San Francisco, their president went on CNN and said, ‘Yes, we are becoming a sanctuary.’ For us not to do that would be a huge question mark.”

Larios said the petition was a call for Georgetown to continue in its mission to educate all students regardless of their identities.

“It’s making sure that if our country can’t provide resources, our universities can do everything to make sure their students succeed, which is what education in universities is about,” Larios said.

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