In the face of Donald Trump's pledge to start large-scale deportations, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White reaffirmed on Wednesday the university's commitment to fostering a learning community that is "safe and welcoming" for its thousands of students who came to the U.S. illegally.
As the largest public university system in the nation, Cal State's mission to provide accessibility to higher education and embrace the diversity of its 470,000 students remains unchanged, White said during a Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach. Unless forced to by law, he said, Cal State "will not enter into agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies, Homeland Security or any other federal department for the enforcement of federal immigration law."
"Our police departments will not honor immigration hold requests," he added. "Our university police do not contact, detain, question or arrest individuals solely on the basis of being … a person that lacks documentation."
The fear and anger of undocumented students have rippled across the country in the days since Trump won the presidential election. His vow to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and tough-on-immigration rhetoric have sparked walkouts and protests by thousands of high school and university students across California.
Rosa Barrientos, a fourth-year student at Sacramento State University, which is part of the CSU system, said her classmates' anxiety has soared, and she wants university leaders to do more to ensure the safety of students who crossed the border illegally.
"Nov. 8 shook my entire life," said Barrientos, one of dozens of students who rallied outside the trustees meeting to protest a proposal to increase tuition and to call for Cal State to be a "sanctuary campus" for all students. Fear of deportation now permeates her everyday life, she said, and she's worried about losing the two jobs that help pay for school and about the safety of her East L.A. family.
"Yes, I'm undocumented, yes, I'm proud — but this is too much," she said. "Sharing with you that I'm undocumented is scary."
Barrientos said she hopes Cal State will be more sensitive to the heightened anxiety and mindful of what might trigger fear on campus. She said she was surprised and terrified to discover that U.S. Customs and Border Protection had been invited on campus recently to participate in a career fair.
Cal State does not track students' immigration status, but an estimated 10,000 students received waivers in fall 2015 through AB 540, a 2011 state law that enables California high school students who are in the U.S. illegally to qualify for in-state tuition, administrators said.
Many of Cal State's 23 campuses are in cities such as Los Angeles, whose police departments have longstanding practices of distancing themselves from federal immigration polices.
In a joint statement last week, White and California State Student Assn. President David Lopez acknowledged how vulnerable many students and faculty members were feeling.
"It is our duty — as a community — to listen to each other and support each other through this time," they said." It is also our responsibility to hold our political leaders to account, regardless of party …. In this effort, we stand with California's political and civic leaders, our colleagues in the University of California and California Community Colleges, and our many peers nationwide who care about and are dedicated to a nation that lives up to its highest principles."
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