Following the lead of their counterparts at three other University of California campuses, UCLA student representatives Friday announced that they will lend support to the sanctuary movement that shelters Central American refugees in the United States.
Noting that the Undergraduate Student Assn. Council unanimously passed a resolution earlier this week declaring itself a sanctuary, student representatives speaking at a press conference on the Westwood campus Friday said they will gather money and goods. In addition, they said they will organize educational programs to inform the public about what they view as the need to provide legal refugee status to people coming to the United States from violence-wracked Central America.
Admitting that the council's sanctuary declaration was "symbolic," the students nevertheless have agreed to provide temporary, off-campus housing for refugees in emergency situations, according to Tom Ward, a member of the Central American Refugee Sanctuary Organization, the student group that authored the council resolution.
"We feel this (the sanctuary movement) is the most important movement since the 1960s," he said, drawing a comparison with the massive student movement that opposed the Vietnam War.
"Seeing this kind of spirit starting up again is the only hope for changing the policies of our government (toward Central America)," said Donald Kalish, a UCLA philosophy professor who joined the students at the press conference Friday.
Students at UC campuses in Riverside, Irvine and Berkeley have declared their support of the sanctuary movement, which was initiated by churches across the nation.
Most of the refugees, having entered the country illegally, are subject to deportation to their homelands. Sanctuary movement representatives contend that the U.S. government should recognize Central American aliens as legal refugees fleeing political violence.
In recent months, federal authorities have cracked down on church-related activists for providing sanctuary to the illegal immigrants.