Letter to the Editor

Dear President Frandsen,

Last September, you sent an email to the Wittenberg community regarding the White House’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. You stated that “Wittenberg stands with all our students who are directly or indirectly affected by this decision,” and you listed various actions you have taken in an attempt to protect those students affected by the rescindment. The Wittenberg University Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) applauds your stance, and we welcome the opportunity to work with you, Student Development, the ECLA and any other organization which may be working towards protecting the rights of DACA beneficiaries.

President Trump has frequently referenced March 5, 2018 as the deadline for replacing DACA. This date has come and gone, although Judge William Alsup’s ruling to temporarily block the expiration of DACA has been upheld. Still, with a $1.3 billion budget passed without any substantive plan to renew the program, we fear that DACA, and thus the futures of an estimated 800,000 people, remains in jeopardy.

Presently, institutions of higher education are considered “sensitive locations” by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), meaning they are not priorities in targeting undocumented immigrants. However, according to the ICE website, “ICE officers and agents may conduct an enforcement action at a sensitive location if there are exigent circumstances, if other law enforcement actions have led officers to a sensitive location, or with prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official.” The potential dangers of this ambiguous exception cannot be overstated. Furthermore, if Wittenberg University is truly committed to the values of “global citizenship, compassion, calling, service, and integrity,” we should do everything we can to protect the rights of students beyond their university life, at which point they will not have the protection of the university’s “sensitive location” status.

As socialists, we believe in maintaining the well-being and security of all people, including undocumented immigrants and their children previously under the protection of DACA. While we sincerely appreciate your previous statement in support of Dreamers, we want a candid progress report. Unfortunately, writing letters to lawmakers has yet to provide substantive results. Furthermore, most of the organizations you note in your September email (ACE, AGB and AAC&U) have not provided digitally accessible updates on their stance and actions since last fall. We urge you to provide a campus-wide update on the actions you have taken, the information you have regarding the organizations you have monitored and your plan for the uncertain future.

Furthermore, we feel that Wittenberg University must take a more concrete stand in providing security to our community members. While we appreciate that Wittenberg will “continue to protect the privacy of student records within the limits of the law,” we need a more substantial promise. Universities have a historical precedent of civil resistance to injustices. For example, Oberlin openly defied the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and accepted Japanese students facing internment during World War II. The NAICU noted in a March 5 article that universities have been active in lobbying efforts and resisting immigration enforcement, with many labelling themselves “sanctuary campuses.” We believe Wittenberg University should also stand tall as a “sanctuary campus,” actively standing in opposition to the federal government’s unjust actions.

In accordance with the “sanctuary campus” title, we urge you to present specific policies of resistance beyond ensuring the “privacy of student records”; for example, the “University of California Statement of Principles in Support of Undocumented Members of the UC Community” provides clear directions to its campus police on resisting ICE requests and denying assistance whenever possible. This form of resistance could be implemented at Wittenberg as well. Taking a stronger stand as an institution of higher education is a necessary extension of Wittenberg’s commitment to, in your words, “ensure a just and equitable tomorrow.”

Sincerely,

Wittenberg Young Democratic Socialists

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