By Chloe Lindeman, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Throughout his campaign for presidency, Donald Trump made immigration regulation one of his key tenets. For supporters, his call for stringent restrictions was a sign of his commitment to making America great again. But for those with less favorable opinions about Trump, it was — and remains — a major area of concern.
Now, Haverford College has taken an official stance on the issue. President Kim Benston sent out an email on Dec. 13 with a resolution that outlined not only Haverford’s policy on protecting students and their private information but also some of the initiatives that are being taken on campus.
“In particular, we affirm the College’s solidarity with students, faculty, and staff who are non-United States citizens and/or members of vulnerable religious minorities who might in the future be subjected to harsh government restrictions, ranging from reduced status to deportation,” the email said in its introduction.
The resolution went on to state “its continuing adherence to strict practices governing the protection of student and employee information” and to declare “residential, dining, and learning spaces as ‘restricted’ areas” so that immigration officers need a warrant to enter.
Ideas expressed in the email mirror those of so-called “sanctuary campuses,” or schools that provide protection of some kind to undocumented students. But the word “sanctuary” is absent from Haverford’s message.
“If you look closely, we actually don’t use the term sanctuary because it doesn’t have a clear meaning,” Benston told The Bi-College News. Instead, the goal was to make it clear exactly what Haverford can and cannot do.
“It’s really … a focused reaffirmation of our commitment to anyone who comes into the community that we will do what we can do within legal boundaries to protect them,” Benston said.
The issue of “sanctuary cities,” from which sanctuary campuses were born, came up in Pennsylvania politics well before election night. The House voted in October in favor of placing sanctions on areas unwilling to follow certain Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rules, and a new bill may threaten funding for institutions of higher learning that declare themselves sanctuary campuses.
But a main motivator for the promise of some protection was spurred by national, not state, politics. President-Elect Donald Trump has pledged to get rid of much of Obama’s immigration policy, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which helps protect undocumented students.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Nimisha Ladva, who teaches courses with an emphasis on immigration, says she worries about possible impacts of policy changes and negative rhetoric toward immigrants.
“Many [international students] reported that they chose America among other options to go to and now they are worried that maybe they will regret that choice,” said Ladva. “Those are legal immigrants who we invite to study, and they are expressing some concern.”
For Ladva, Haverford’s resolution is a step in the right direction.
“I think that we are in this together — students, faculty, staff, administration; that we are a community together,” said Ladva, “We are on the same side to continue making Haverford a safe space, a place that we can all come together … We have to be vigilant, we have to be mindful, we have to take care of each other.”
While the resolution makes Haverford’s position official, President Benston encourages “a continued dimension of dialogue” rather than the end of conversation. He invites students with questions or concerns about the issue to express them through student publications, by emailing him, or by speaking to him in person.
A number of other schools in the area have released similar statements. The University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore have both received press recently for declaring themselves sanctuaries, and Bryn Mawr College President Kim Cassidy sent out an email in early December voicing Bryn Mawr’s support for DACA and undocumented students.
“I think what we’re seeing is a broad collective affirmation that DACA students are a really important dimension of many campus communities,” said Benston. “Campuses feel enriched by their presence and also dedicated to ensuring that they have the same opportunities as all their other students to succeed and to thrive at their institution.”