Sanctuary campus walkout
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, December 7, 2016
On Nov. 16, Notre Dame students participated in a walkout as part of the nationwide sanctuary campus movement. The purpose of this walkout was to exhibit solidarity and call on our president to publicly acknowledge Notre Dame as a sanctuary campus in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. As a sanctuary campus, Notre Dame would deny Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection physical access to the University and would refuse to voluntarily share information about students with these government entities.
The South Bend Tribune posted a video of the walkout on its Facebook page that invoked some negative responses. Some of the comments left on the video revealed a lack of awareness regarding the issue at hand and immigration law in general. Some commenters were under the impression that Notre Dame students were protesting President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, rather than a specific promise he has made in his 10-part immigration proposal. Specifically, Trump has promised to revoke DACA once he takes office. Comments such as, “What an embarrassment for this University. We didn’t act this childish when Obama took office. Put your big panties on and get over it!” and, “Idiots, they are acting like the spoiled brats they are. Not a good example! It’s also not going to change a presidential outcome,” reduce a human rights issue to an issue of mere political preference. Participants were not protesting Trump’s victory, but rather were asking the University to support its DACA students with the larger hope that nationwide participation may impact Trump’s stance on the issue.
Other comments demonstrated misconceptions regarding the fundamental basics of DACA itself. DACA protects those who came to the U.S. as children and have since become valuable members of their communities. To be eligible, recipients must have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, be under the age of 31, lived in the country continuously for at least five years, be enrolled in or graduated high school or college and have no criminal convictions. This program does not provide amnesty. It merely provides recipients with security against removal and the ability to work lawfully for two years, with the possibility of renewal. These are people who were brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own; people of good moral character who are pursing an education and better life in this country. One person commented, “The president-elect’s stand is simple. If you are illegal AND a criminal, you’re gone. What’s wrong with sending the murderers, rapists, child and spouse abusers, etc. back?” Another writes, “He wants to send back illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. Why wouldn’t they want that? Everything is so upside down in America.” While these comments regarding the president-elect’s stance are true, they are completely irrelevant to DACA since all recipients must be of good moral character. If the belief is that illegal immigration itself makes a person a criminal, then the question becomes whether a minor child who was brought to the U.S. by his or her parents is morally blameworthy for that act. Protesting the revoking of DACA is not synonymous with supporting all illegal immigration. It is showing empathy for a small sector of the undocumented population who are deserving of compassion. Many commentators told students to “stop protesting” and “get back to class.” For DACA recipients who are unsure of their futures, going back to class is much easier said than done. If DACA is revoked, students who are currently enrolled in high school or college may find that they wasted their time and money on a degree that they will never have the chance to complete. If deported, it is likely that their credits will be nontransferable. Many of these students were not even aware that they were undocumented until later in life. If that is not a reason to protest, what is?
Finally, it does not matter where you stand on the issue of immigration as long as you take the time to educate yourself first. Immigration is so much more than a political issue. Those who participated in the walk-out are not all “libtards.” We merely chose to show compassion to those who deserve it, regardless of citizenship status.
second year Law student
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.