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Coalition of Graduate Workers Discusses 'Sanctuary Campus' Label for MU

The Coalition of Graduate Workers (CGW) at the University of Missouri is discussing ways to make the school a "sanctuary campus" for students who may be in the United States illegally. The organization held a listening session on Wednesday. Students, faculty, staff and community members discussed policy ideas to present to the university.

Under a sanctuary label, the university would have to protect students and immigrants in this country illegally from federal agents without a warrant. 28 universities have claimed this status so far. Eric Scott, the coalition’s chair, said the organization did not come up with a final version of the demands. However, he said the project is similar to other sanctuary campus movements across the country.

“The main idea is that the university should not cooperate with the federal government except when required by a warrant or something like that,” Scott Said. “There should not be voluntary collaboration when it comes to disclosing immigration status or cooperating with the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement on trying to arrest and deport undocumented people or immigrants.”

Executive orders signed in the first days of the Trump presidency paved the way for more deportations, and fostered concerns on the future of DREAMers, the recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The DACA, signed by President Obama in 2012, provided protection to immigrants who had arrived before they were 16 from deportation. It also offered them the possibility to apply for a two-year work permit.

Scott says the Coalition members became interested in this issue after they realized some graduate student employees were affected by policies from the Trump administration. After the signing of the first travel ban,the CGW addressed a letter to the university’s leadershipasking for guarantees of protection for international students. Scott said he found the statement released by the university was an insufficient response.

“I understand that the university may feel like it's in a difficult political situation here because there are certainly a lot of powerful people who are not disposed to treating immigrant and undocumented people very well,” Scott said. “But I think that's why it's our job, as members of this university and as members of the Columbia community to show why we think this is an important valuable policy and why it's something worth fighting for.”

Although it is illegal for a city to claim the sanctuary label, Scott says he believes MU could become a sanctuary campus, by putting the immigrant status of students under the protection of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) laws.

“It does require taking a brave stance and saying that the university is willing to speak up and fight for these populations,” Scott said. “It may lead to some backlash, we're not going to lie. But I think it's important and it is crucial to our mission as a university.”

Scott said he hopes to present the demands to the university by the end of the semester.