Rutgers Students Rally for ‘Sanctuary Campus’

By Brenda Flanagan

We’re at Rutgers New Brunswick where there was a very high energy and emotional rally, a protest demanding that the campus be a “sanctuary campus”. It’s one of hundreds of similar protests across the nation and across New Jersey today.

“Today we are gathered here to make Rutgers a sanctuary campus which means that students like myself will be able to go to class and not fear deportation. We have called America home for all our of lives. We are American whether you Trump supporters like it or not,” said Carimer Andujar.

“Let’s make this the beginning of a vigorous response to the new administration but also a vigorous response and a hell to the no to bigotry and racism,” said Professor Carlos Decena, chair of Latino Hispanic Caribbean Studies.

Well over 1,000 students and faculty turned out at one of the most diverse campuses in the nation with a singular message. They have petitioned the administration for a “sanctuary campus” in the face of President-Elect Donald Trump’s declared intentions to deport millions of unauthorized immigrants.

A small Rutgers for Trump group counter-protested.

“If you’re in this country illegally, you are subject to deportation. If you are an American citizen, if you’re here with a visa, you have nothing to be afraid of,” said Dylan Marek.

The petition — called Make Rutgers a Sanctuary Campus — makes 11 separate requests, among them that Rutgers ensure the identifications of undocumented members of the community continue to be protected; that it protect the undocumented from deportation or detention; that it refuse all voluntary information-sharing with ICE, and refuse ICE physical access to the campus; that Rutgers not use E-verify and that it prohibit housing discrimination based on immigration status.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that there is a very real fear — not only on college campuses but across country — people who are fearful for their very lives that they’re going to be deported back,” said Sahar Akbarzai Jr.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi said yesterday, “… you are first and foremost a Rutgers student, and you are owed our respect, our support and our best efforts to keep you safe and secure as you express your opinions and pursue your studies … We will protect student confidentiality and will not share private information unless required by law or a court order.”

Barchi also stated Rutgers police would not request immigration status, unless a serious crime had been committed; that it doesn’t use E-verify except to comply with federal employment laws; that immigration status isn’t a factor in student housing decisions; and that the campus is a sensitive location, not subject to regular enforcement under ICE policy.

“He doesn’t even say that we are a sanctuary campus, so we’re gathered here today to demand that Barchi say the words we are a sanctuary campus,” said Alex Uematsu.

Students hope the university will take a dramatic step and call this campus a sanctuary campus and join a national movement.