File photo of California State University Chancellor Timothy White.
In an open letter to staff, faculty and students Thursday, California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy White sought to calm the fears of immigrant students attending CSU campuses by stating that the institution would not enter into agreements with law enforcement agencies pertaining to possible deportation efforts in the future.
White wrote that diversity was one of the core values of the CSU and that a continued effort to make the 23 campuses part of the CSU welcoming environments would allow for its students to be “confident and secure” in their pursuit of education.
His comments come one week after voters elected Donald Trump as the country’s next president. One of Trump’s core tenets during his campaign was that a wall needed to be built on the southern border of the country with Mexico and that upward of 11 million undocumented immigrants should be deported upon his taking office.
“Indeed, my immediate concern is for our students and other members of our campus community who lack documentation and fear actions based on the emerging national narrative of potential changes in immigration policy and related enforcement action,” White wrote. “This concern is shared broadly among trustees, presidents and vice chancellors, along with senate, student and labor leadership among others.”
White’s policy proposal would prohibit the CSU from entering into agreements with state, local or federal law enforcement agencies including the United States Department of Homeland Security to carry out federal immigration laws and instructs university police departments not to honor immigration hold requests. Officers patrolling university campuses are also instructed not to contact or detain persons solely on the belief that they lack legal immigration status.
Those guidelines will remain in place so long as the California government code or any other laws compel the CSU or their police officers to do otherwise.
His letter also pledged to partner with elected officials to see to it that students who are registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an executive order from President Barack Obama that allowed undocumented students to pay a fee in exchange for temporary work authorization and protection against deportation. President-elect Trump has promised to overturn every executive order signed by Obama.
Democrats in Congress have started an effort this week to have Obama issue pardons to the nearly 740,000 affected students whose DACA information is stored in databases and could be used by the Trump administration to target and deport DACA students.
While White’s policy does take steps toward limiting the possibility of undocumented immigrants being detained or deported due to situations that transpire on school campuses, it stopped short of making the 23 campuses sanctuaries for immigrants.
In his letter he acknowledged the desire to create such oases, but said that calling the campuses such would be disingenuous to the students and faculty. Instead, he said the more flexible approach outlined by his directives was more appropriate for the vast network of campuses, each with its own unique campus climates.
“The term “sanctuary” has several interpretations and is in many contexts ambiguous,” White said. “If we were to use this term it would be misleading to the very people we support and serve.”
Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley echoed the sentiment contained in White’s letter issued Thursday. In her own letter to students, Conoley said that CSULB was a strong supporter of White’s systemwide principles and pointed to recent efforts enacted at CSULB to ensure that its campus police were not complicit in unnecessary deportations.
Over the summer, Conoley instituted General Order 55, a directive that came in the wake of a Long Beach man being held by campus police after a traffic stop revealed a 20-year-old drug conviction. He was deported the same night and has been the focus of local efforts and a Long Beach City Council vote to request the secretary of homeland security to grant him humanitarian parole.
“CSULB’s commitment to Inclusive Excellence and university policies, including General Order 55, establish and reinforce our campus as a secure environment for all regardless of political ideology, sexual preference, religious beliefs or immigration status,” Conoley said in her email. “We are ONE BEACH.”
Earlier in the week, citing conversations she’d had where members of the campus community had expressed being distressed at what the new presidential administrations’ ambitions could spell for them or their family members, Conoley issued a list of resources on campus for those in need of counseling, or simply a conversation about the election’s results.
According to the CSU’s 2015 enrollment figures Mexican-Americans and other Latinos made up over 38 percent of undergraduate enrollment during the Fall 2015 semester. Combined with African Americans (4.3 percent), Asian (12.5 percent) Filipino (4.3 percent) and American Indians (0.3) percent minority groups at CSU campuses comprised nearly 60 percent of all undergraduate students last Fall.
At CSULB those groups accounted for over 63 percent of student enrollment last Fall, not including 7.5 percent of students listed as “non-resident alien.”