Over the past week, I’ve seen a petition on my campus that is urging the Lehman College President, Dr. Jose Luis Cruz to designate our campus a sanctuary for “students, faculty, and staff who may face imminent deportation.” If this petition manages to persuade President Cruz to declare Lehman College a sanctuary, it will make Lehman College the first university from the City University of New York (CUNY) the first sanctuary in New York City.
At other schools in the New York City area such as New York University (NYU) and Columbia University, students staged a walkout in hopes to force their respective schools to take notice and ensure a safe space for undocumented students and for students who are not U.S citizens. The idea of declaring colleges such as mines a sanctuary stems from the Special Order 40, a police mandate from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) that prevents LAPD officers from questioning people solely on the basis of determining their immigration status.
As of the time of this writing, Reed college (a private college in Oregon) and Portland State University (a public, nonprofit), are two colleges that recently declared themselves as sanctuaries. However, even as I read the petition that the Dream Team created and even as I signed it, I could not help but to ask myself the following question: is an educational institution that receives funding from the government allowed to go against federal laws? This question arose from a statement made by the Chancellor of California State University system Timothy P. White, who said that unless forced by law California State “will not enter into agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies, Homeland Security or any other federal department for the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” The key words in Mr. White’s statement to me were “unless forced by law” which means that even if he is to declare the Cal State system a sanctuary, the federal laws must be upheld.
I signed the petition that is circulating at my school, in large part due to the fact that I have friends who are recipients of Obama’s 2012 executive order for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA). However, I do not believe that this alone will be enough to convince the college president to make such declaration. He is a new president who is only a few months into his position, and this school is part of a system of 25 other universities. I think the stronger argument should be for students throughout CUNY to petition to their respective student government to reach out to the University Student Senate (USS) and have USS take this plight to the CUNY Board of Trustees. This would show that the CUNY students as a whole are backing up this initiative and not just one of the other 25 campuses.
If you are a Lehman College student, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, or just someone from the general public here is the petition.