Students ask administration to declare Sac State a ‘sanctuary campus’


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Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen, right, meets with protesters outside of his Sacramento Hall office on Thursday, Dec. 1 who want the campus declared a ‘sanctuary’ for undocumented students. (Photo by Rin Carbin)

John Ferrannini

About one dozen Sacramento State students marched from the Library Quad to Sacramento Hall on Thursday and spoke with President Robert Nelsen to advocate for undocumented students who fear they may face deportation following Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency.

Denise Fernandez of Students for a Quality Education said that she wants Sacramento State declared a sanctuary campus for the undocumented — something that a July 29 memo sent from CSU Chancellor Timothy White to the CSU campus presidents said should not be done.

The memo states that “campus policies shall avoid use of the term ‘sanctuary,’ a term for which there is no standard definition or common understanding and which, if used, can lead to confusion and misunderstanding,” the memo stated. “Rather, utilizing terms such as ‘safe and welcoming’ is accurate.”

“The new president-elect has a lot of us living in uncertainty. We want the staff to say ‘Your feelings and concerns are heard; we will not allow ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to come here,’ ” Fernandez said.

While CSU campuses will not be declared as “sanctuar(ies),” the July memo does state that “CSU Police Departments will not honor ICE immigration hold requests, unless doing so is … required by law.”

Some people brought to the United States illegally while they were children are currently shielded from deportation by an Obama administration policy — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — that President-elect Trump said he would end.

The leaders of the CSU system, as well as of the University of California and the California Community Colleges, sent a letter to Trump on Tuesday asking him to reconsider.

When the marchers reached President Nelsen’s Sacramento Hall office, he went outside to speak with them.

“We’re working very close with the chancellor’s office to make sure that our campus is safe, that none of our students are endangered,” Nelsen said. “It is coming from the Republican side to pass legislation that will make DACA permanent. We need to make that big step, we need to work on that as well. I’m going to be there to support you.”

Nelsen told students experiencing distress over Trump’s victory or harassment from other students to seek counseling or discuss the topic with their professors.

Rosa Barrientos, the lead organizer of the protest, said that many school employees don’t understand how to help these students because many are not from historically underrepresented backgrounds themselves.

“The counselors don’t understand the trauma that we’re coming from,” Barrientos said. “I’ve been in places where they say ‘Focus on your education. You come here, you’re a student, your degree matters.’ But how does our degree matter when we don’t know if we’re going to be here?”

Nelsen agreed that there should be more diversity represented among the faculty and staff, but said that resources such as the Dreamer Resource Center are available.

Barrientos said that the protesters will be back.

“I think they still don’t understand why we want a sanctuary campus. Change happens locally and that’s why we’re starting here,” she said. “Over 1,000 undocumented students are at this university but their minds can’t focus on their education. What we want from the university is something to give them peace of mind while the nation is shaken.”