News Local/State

Petition Seeks Making U Of I Campus ‘Sanctuary’ For Undocumented Community Members

Student protesters rally in from the U of I's alma mater statue on November 11.

Student protesters rally in from the U of I's alma mater statue on November 11. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

A number of U.S. "Sanctuary Cities" like Chicago and New York vow to protect undocumented immigrants in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president. An online petition is seeking the same for the University of Illinois Urbana campus. It had just under 2,000 signatures from students, faculty and others by late Wednesday afternoon.

U of I Asian-American Studies Assistant Professor Naomi Paik says she and Latino Studies and Anthropology professor Gilberto Rosas wrote the letter to administrators over the weekend after consulting with concerned faculty.

Paik says she’s hearing stories of intimidation and harassment of female and minorities, including from a couple of her own students.

She says one Latino female student heard comments yelled at her by men based on her gender and race.

"They started yelling 'build the wall' around her," Paik said. She also said a white female student heard lewd remarks similar to those made by Trump in a controversial 2005 video that was released just weeks before the election.

"I do think that the election has kind of sanctioned or mobilized certain behaviors and certain actions that are menacing large members of our community," she said.

Paik says efforts to organize with friends, colleagues, and students keeps her motivated.

“I think because Trump’s rhetoric targets such a broad swath of people, who might not normally see so much in common, I do think that there is the potential to bring really strong lines of solidarity across different kinds of groups," she said.

Among the letter’s demands, it’s asking for guaranteed student privacy by refusing to release immigration status, and assigning administrators who will assist students who came to the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which Trump vows to repeal.

The petitioners also want a guarantee that this same office will be charged with pursuing funding for all students who lack citizenship.

Paik says the letter likely won’t be delivered to U of I administrators until after Thanksgiving holiday, allowing for more people to sign the petition. 

As reported this week in Inside Higher Ed, other universities with petitions to become a ‘sanctuary campus’ include the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Oberlin College in Ohio.