Make Notre Dame a sanctuary campus
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Shortly after the election, three Notre Dame faculty, alarmed by what the Trump Administration would to the undocumented members of our community, started a petition respectfully urging Fr. Jenkins to declare the University a “sanctuary” campus and to refuse to hand over any information relating to a person’s immigration status. Over 4,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni signed the petition in a matter of days, and students, staff and faculty members staged a quiet sit-in on the lawn in front of the Main Building as the petition was delivered to Fr. Jenkins’s office. The Notre Dame faculty senate passed a resolution to make the campus a sanctuary campus and sent its decision onto Jenkins for his approval. To date, Fr. Jenkins and the rest of the University administration have not weighed in on the issue.
It has become increasingly clear that the Trump Administration not only plans to carry out its promise to deport illegal immigrants, but also to ban legal immigrants, visa holders and permanent residents from entering the United States. It is also clear that this administration openly intimidates and threatens those who go against such plans, from the firing of the acting attorney general to insulting, demeaning and degrading federal judges who rule the president’s orders to be unconstitutional. To date, these threats have not stopped many mayors, governors, university presidents or citizens from declaring that they protect those who live and work in their cities and that they will not participate in such discriminatory policies. Indeed, the overwhelming public support for the undocumented, including an estimated 1.8 million DREAMers has been a wonderful beacon of hope in these increasingly fraught and turbulent times.
Yet those who oppose standing up for the defenseless and marginalized and who want to punish others for trying to seek a better life for themselves and their children are at work to make such sanctuary cities and campuses illegal. In Indiana, sanctuary cities were made illegal by a 2011 law. Now, members of the Indiana legislature seek to make sanctuary campuses illegal with Senate Bill 423. If the measure is passed and signed into law, our efforts thus far to protect the defenseless from harm will face a serious challenge. Notre Dame, along with Indiana University and other university and college campuses who declared themselves to be sanctuaries in Indiana, will be accused of breaking the law. We could even face punitive legal action.
These are not idle threats; we who respectfully called upon Fr. Jenkins to declare the campus a sanctuary do not expect the University to act naively. Yet, social justice requires us to stand strong in the face of threats, even in the face of breaking the law. Walking the Walk, as we were reminded during our celebrations of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., requires us to spend a night in jail, or perhaps even more than a night, in order to stand up for what is right and to make our society more inclusive. In order to protect the dignity of every life, we must not permit the actions of those who seek to target the weak, the defenseless and the ones who have no legal voice in our society. We must not fall for the trap that requires us to sacrifice the stranger in order to have safety or “law and order.” Instead, we must live as the good Samaritan lived, by taking care of the one who is not us, regardless of what others may say.
It is time to make Notre Dame a sanctuary campus. No matter what happens, we must ensure that every member of the Notre Dame family is safe and protected. We must not divulge immigration status or country of origin to those who seek to use such information as part of a discriminatory practice. In the face of intimidation and threats, we must walk the walk. By declaring the Notre Dame a sanctuary campus, we will reassure the members of our family that they are family, that they do belong here and that we will house them. By declaring the University a sanctuary campus, we will also stand alongside our fellow colleagues at other colleges and universities who are also taking a stand across, and signal to them that we are part of a larger group. By declaring the University a sanctuary campus, we will honor our own pledge to walk the walk, to protect life and to treat everyone, even the stranger, with dignity.
The hour has come. Fr. Jenkins, declare this University a sanctuary.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.