Legislative student organizations at UT are discussing coming together in support of undocumented students at UT, as well as calling on the University to declare itself a “sanctuary university.”
Joint Resolution 2 was introduced to the Student Government general assembly Tuesday, and Speaker of the Assembly Santiago Rosales, the resolution’s author, hopes the legislation will make a statement to the student body about the support they have for undocumented students.
“Knowing that the Trump administration has made particular promises with regards to how the enforcement of particular immigration laws will be, we felt it necessary to look at what the University can do to make sure that undocumented students can have a fair education and support,” Rosales said.
Another large part of the resolution is calling upon the University to declare itself a sanctuary campus, similar to a sanctuary city in which the University would refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
The legal repercussions to this are uncertain, but federal funding could potentially be revoked from the University, like how federal funding is revoked from cities refusing to cooperate with ICE. Across the country, many other Universities have received similar calls from their student bodies to declare themselves sanctuary universities.
SG President Kevin Helgren said he supported the resolution, but the possible legal repercussions the University may face as a public, state-funded University concern him.
“In my opinion, [undocumented students] are just as deserving of the longhorn label as citizens of the U.S.,” Helgren said. “The spirit behind the resolution doesn’t concern me at all, but given that we are a public, state-funded institution, there are certain things we can and cannot do.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently listed a bill banning sanctuary cities in Texas as one of his top priorities in the upcoming 2017 legislative session. Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock introduced such a bill Nov. 15, Senate Bill 4, requiring cities to enforce federal immigration laws, but the bill makes no mention of universities.
The SG joint resolution will likely be considered by the Graduate Student Assembly and Senate of College Councils sometime next semester, making it one of the first resolutions of the school year to be considered by all three legislative student organizations.
Rosales said he hoped to include a clause in the resolution calling on the University to ensure UTPD is not used to enforce immigration laws on campus.
“Your local police department asking people about their immigration status or engaging in other similar activities has been questioned very often by federal courts,” Rosales said. “The other big point of this resolution is to make sure UTPD doesn’t ask those kinds of questions, and if they’re ever contacted by immigration authorities, to basically defer to what localities should be doing and not focusing on immigration enforcement.”
Undeclared freshman Mayte Lara Ibarra, who is an undocumented immigrant, said she believes the University should declare itself a sanctuary campus in a show of support for its undocumented students.
“Our parents brought us here, sacrificing everything to make sure we were given the opportunities they weren’t given,” Ibarra said. “We’ve all worked very hard to validate those sacrifices, and having that security to be able to study and work hard will make us feel safer and more protected.”