More than 1,100 students, faculty and others have signed a petition calling on the University of Minnesota to declare itself a “sanctuary campus” for immigrants in the wake of the presidential election.
The petition, part of a national movement that is sweeping college campuses, calls on the university to refuse to cooperate with any “current or future” government efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. It urges the U to safeguard students or employees who might be targeted for deportation.
Organizers said they plan to deliver the petition Wednesday to U President Eric Kaler.
“I’m hearing a lot of anxiety, both fear and an urgent desire for action,” said Abeer Syedah, a university senior who helped launch the petition drive.
Among other things, the petition asks the U to bar its police force from collaborating with immigration agents, and to shield records that identify students’ religious affiliation or immigration status.
The university had no immediate comment on the petition, but it released a brief statement saying it “values the well-being of all members of our University community, including those who have immigrated to this country.”
The statement also said that U officials are closely following the debate over immigration, and that “we welcome the continued conversations.”
Syedah said one of the biggest concerns is that President-elect Donald Trump will reverse federal policy allowing undocumented immigrants who arrived as children to work and study in the United States.
“It’s something the president-elect has the power to overturn the first day in office,” she said. “I’m hearing from undocumented students who are afraid ... of being detained or deported.”
While both Minneapolis and St. Paul have declared themselves “sanctuary cities,” Syedah said that may not be enough to protect people on campus. The petition asks the U to offer legal and other help to community members “under the threat of detention and/or deportation.”
Last week, students at some colleges nationwide staged walkouts demanding that their schools declare themselves as sanctuaries. The movement, using the Twitter hashtag #sanctuarycampus, has spread across the country.
Syedah, who is president of the Minnesota Student Association, admitted that she’s uncertain how much the U can do legally to help undocumented immigrants. But the petition, she said, is a way to find out.
“We are asking for the university to clarify these things,” she said, “and clarify them now.”