Dissent: ​Undocumented Students Deserve Better

On Dec. 6, University President Drew G. Faust announced that she would not declare Harvard a sanctuary campus because “it would endanger, rather than protect, our students.” The claim that calling the campus a sanctuary campus would endanger its students is misguided. It’s common knowledge that undocumented students attend Harvard, and nothing about designating the campus a sanctuary campus would force individual students to disclose their immigration status. Those students who are already vocal about their status can be traced through coverage they have received in the media, and the declaration of Harvard as a sanctuary campus will only reassure them of the University's commitment to them.

Furthermore, this decision by Faust is in direct contrast with the demands that have been made by many undocumented student organizers and their allies. Students have repeatedly called for the administration to take the safety and mental health of all undocumented students into account by declaring Harvard an official sanctuary campus in addition to meeting other demands outlined in the petition “Protect Undocumented Students at Harvard.”

The role of administrators is to ensure that the needs of all Harvard students are met. This includes the right for students, regardless of any component of their identity, to feel safe on their own campus. By refusing to declare Harvard a sanctuary campus and failing to ensure their safety, President Faust is standing in direct opposition to that responsibility. She is treating Harvard’s undocumented students differently on the basis of their immigration status. This is unacceptable.

The term sanctuary campus was recently created in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric against immigrants, his discriminatory policies towards Muslims, as well as his threats to deport millions of undocumented Americans. It is a term that carries not only symbolic significance, but also provides peace of mind and a guarantee that the University will protect its students in any case where they are under threat due to policies of the Trump administration. By refusing to call itself a sanctuary campus, Harvard is choosing to ignore its students who fear for their livelihoods under an unpredictable Trump administration by refusing to meet their needs.

In addition, while Faust has come out in support of the DREAM Act in the past, it is not enough to cite that as justification for her failure to take into account the unique needs of the undocumented students who attend schools across the University. Now more than ever, it is important for undocumented students to feel as though they belong and are safe on this campus, and that they are no different from any other student. It is also imperative that the administration do everything in its power to fulfill its commitment towards supporting these students by ensuring they have access to affordable legal services, culturally competent mental health services, and administrators who are familiar with immigration issues.

Instead of fearing the possible repercussions of declaring itself a sanctuary campus, Harvard should use its influence to set an example for other campuses as we approach the inauguration of a new president who has been very vocal about his views on the undocumented and Muslim communities. It’s not up to Harvard to dictate what is best for its students. Instead, Harvard must actively listen to their concerns and fulfill its duty to ensure that students can fully participate as members of the Harvard community. As part of its responsibility to meet the needs of the students, Harvard is obligated to provide administrative, legal, financial, and moral support to its undocumented students. The future we face is uncertain and unprecedented, and it is this institution’s responsibility to ensure that it is on the right side of history in combating bigotry by upholding the standards we’ve already set for ourselves as an institution.

While the immigration policies of Donald Trump will not be known until he takes office, the administration must take this moment to display complete support for protecting its undocumented students. Should they choose to shirk that responsibility, then they should at the very least provide a reasoning for not taking on the sanctuary campus label that does not unreasonably and inaccurately say that it would endanger the very students who have expressly demanded it in order to feel safe.

They should attempt to explain why the administration has deemed it okay to push undocumented students into the shadows and fail them in the time of their greatest need. While President Faust may not have intended for her statements to be construed in this manner, what her words clearly show is that Harvard is failing to stand in solidarity with the undocumented students on this campus. Those students deserve far better from their administration.

Ruben E. Reyes Jr. ’19, Zoe D. Ortiz ’19, and Laura Veira-Ramirez ‘20 are Crimson Editorial writers. Ruben lives in Leverett House, Zoe lives in Mather House, and Laura lives in Canaday Hall.

DISSENTING OPINIONS: Occasionally, The Crimson Staff is divided about the opinion we express in a staff editorial. In these cases, dissenting staff members have the opportunity to express their opposition to staff opinion.

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