University Politics

Ad hoc committee will look to protect undocumented students at Syracuse University

Wasim Ahmad | Staff Photographer

The Ad Hoc Committee on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)/Undocumented Students was established on Feb. 24.

A recently-formed ad hoc committee could turn into Syracuse University’s first concrete steps to protect undocumented students in wake of actions taken by United States President Donald Trump.

The Ad Hoc Committee on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)/Undocumented Students was established on Feb. 24. The committee will meet for the first time on Friday, and its members have said they’re hoping the committee will be able to develop a strategy to better meet the needs of DACA and undocumented students.

“I think this committee is very much geared toward understanding the fact that right now there’s crazy stuff going on and what we can do as an institution to sort of help (those students) survive this,” said Gladys McCormick, a member of the committee and an assistant professor of history in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

McCormick added that she’s hoping the committee will be able to learn of and address the concerns and needs of undocumented students, who she said are currently “under a tremendous amount of stress.”

The forming of the committee was a result of collaboration between the Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience, the Council on Diversity and Inclusion and the Department of Public Safety. SU Chancellor Kent Syverud originally charged those three groups to work together to ensure all members of the community are protected in a Dec. 7 message to the campus community.

That message followed calls from members of the community for Syverud to take steps to protect undocumented students during Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump on Jan. 27 signed an executive order preventing people from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the country for the next 90 days, and all refugee admissions for 120 days. About 50 SU students were then advised not to travel outside of the U.S. because they wouldn’t be allowed in.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually blocked the enforcement of the travel ban, upholding an earlier decision made by a federal judge in Seattle, but Trump has hinted he might sign another order related to immigration.

Walt Donner, a graduate student in the Maxwell School who is also on the committee, said he thinks the committee will look to anticipate any further actions taken by Trump’s administration on immigration and “act upon those in a timely way.”

Since Trump’s election as president, there have been multiple calls from campus community members and groups for Syverud to declare SU a “sanctuary campus.” There’s no strict definition of a sanctuary campus, but the concept is for universities to adopt policies that protect students who are undocumented immigrants.

Syverud has so far avoided using the “sanctuary campus” terminology, but has signaled his support for undocumented students and last month denounced Trump’s order on immigration.

The Graduation Student Organization, of which Donner is a member, was among the organizations that called on Syverud to declare SU a sanctuary campus.

Donner, though, said he’s not necessarily expecting the ad hoc committee to push for SU to declare itself a sanctuary status. He said the term can sometimes become “a little bit of a distraction” because of its fluid definition.

Rather than having SU declared a sanctuary campus, Donner said he’s more concerned that the university adopt the specific suggestions outlined in the GSO’s resolution. In the resolution, GSO suggested that SU’s Department of Public Safety not comply with immigration authorities regarding deportations or raids, that DPS not act on behalf of federal agents to enforce immigration laws and that SU refuse to release the immigration status of its students, among other things.

Donner said he was happy to see Tony Callisto, SU’s senior vice president for safety and chief law enforcement officer, say in a statement to the SU community that DPS neither inquires about immigration status of individuals on campus nor assists federal officials in immigration investigations or raids.

“If we can get other things (from that resolution), to me it’s a sanctuary campus, whether or not the chancellor uses a bullhorn to shout it,” he said. “The term isn’t as important as the policies we’re looking for.”

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