Sanctuary Campuses

The safety of American immigrants is a human rights issue, not a political one

In the two weeks since the presidential election, immigrants—documented and undocumented alike—are grappling with the possibility that they will be deported from the country under a Trump administration. For these people, the existence of sanctuary cities is a saving grace.

Sanctuary cities, like Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, are cities that don't generally cooperate with federal immigration authorities except in cases involving violent criminals. In line with his proposed stringent immigration policy, President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to go after these sanctuary cities, of which Massachusetts boasts six. So far, Boston and Somerville are standing firm against Trump, vowing to remain safe havens.

Given that the cities of Cambridge and Boston are engaging in dialogue surrounding the safety of immigrants in this country, we think it important to consider the role that Harvard can play in doing the same. In recent weeks, universities have grafted the idea of the “sanctuary city” onto campuses, and we believe that Harvard should pursue this idea. Despite the upcoming change in presidential administration, Harvard’s commitment to taking care of its students regardless of their immigration status should not change.

We are concerned that immigration regulations might change under Trump, and we hope that Harvard would combat any changes made with the purpose of rendering it more difficult for undocumented students to stay in this country. Though the administration certainly has not always reacted quickly to the demands of Harvard’s undocumented students, we are heartened to see that a general trend leans toward administrative support for the protection of undocumented students on this campus, especially in the current political climate.

At Harvard and beyond, the issue of immigrants’ safety in this country transcends politics—it is a human rights issue. Immigration detention conditions are often poor, and immigrants sent to them often only escape by being deported to dangerous countries. Meanwhile, in non-sanctuary cities, the fear of being caught de-incentivizes immigrants from reporting serious crimes that they witness or suffer for fear of deportation. Needless to say, students at Harvard should not need to worry about being sent to a detention center with inhumane accommodations or even fear deportation while trying to pursue an education.

As we have argued previously, there is considerable work to be done in the name of ensuring that undocumented students feel safe and comfortable on this campus. We implore Harvard to join the movement of “sanctuary campuses” in order to ensure the safety of the students to which it already has a responsibility. We hope that the University will reaffirm current policies and expand outreach to these students, whose needs are unique, whose presence on our campus is important, and whose right to an education may come under threat after Inauguration Day.