Undocumented Students at IUPUI Peacefully Protest

After the 2016 election of President Trump, immigrants everywhere were fearful for their  future. Among these people were students, faculty members and staff who attend colleges all over the nation. According to CNN, Trump stated one of his top priorities as president would be to deport millions of undocumented immigrants once he came into office.

The National Sheriff’s Association claim there are nearly 12 to 20 million current illegal immigrants in America today.

Illegal immigration is difficult for institutions such as IUPUI, because it’s a huge controversy in our country. Critics say immigrants are a drain on public resources, can have ties to crime here and be fugitives on the run with the intent to do us harm.

In result of this proclamation, students and campus’ everywhere have made moves to become what is called a, “sanctuary campus.”

The concrete definition of a “sanctuary campus” varies, because people have a variety of definitions. The basic idea is that a college that declares to be a sanctuary campus will limit its cooperation with the federal government when it comes to their undocumented students, faculty and staff members.

IUPUI has been known to have a very diverse student body. According to IUPUI’s website, 25% of students enrolled there are minorities. The website also stated the number has been growing over the past few years. The exact number of how many students would be affected from IUPUI specifically is unknown.

Photo courtesy of Adam Kiefer

Photo courtesy of Adam Kiefer

Given the situation, those who are at risk have fought to make their campus’ as safe as possible. Wednesday, Nov. 16, students across the nation peacefully protested and walked out of their classrooms at 3:00 p.m.

IUPUI had more than 150 students who came together at Taylor Courtyard to participate in this declaration. Students demanded IUPUI to become a safe place for everyone.

Colleges across the U.S. have already put forth effort to do just what these students have been asking of them. Many of these attempts have resulted in action from the school boards. An article from Democracy Now stated nearly 100 schools have already signed to protect their students from Trump’s policies. Yet IUPUI has not declared anything publicly for itself.

Mariana, an undocumented student who wished to omit her last name, spoke about the hopes she has for her school involving the situation.

“I arrived to the US at a fairly young age, and I know nothing, but Indiana. I have assimilated and consider this my true home,” Mariana said. “I plan to invest the rest of my studies and my life to this community. It would have great meaning if my school decided to stand in solidarity and supported my academic success regardless of my legal status. However, as a public institution, I know that systematic changes take far more than just solidarity.”

In a recent article written about the walkout, IUPUI’s chancellor, Nasser Paydar, stated he was refusing to make a decision at this time and explained he would continue to review it before moving forward with a decision. The campus has hosted several Town Hall meetings regarding the topic of whether or not IUPUI will become a sanctuary camus or not. According to recent emails sent out to faculty and students, Chancellor Paydar stated IUPUI is committed to ensuring a welcoming, safe, civil, and inclusive community for all students.

Possibly one of the biggest obstacles IUPUI has faced when deciding whether or not to become a sanctuary campus is its relationship with federal funding. In one of the emails, Paydar made a statement saying IUPUI is a public institution bound by federal and state laws.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

According to Director of Budget Kevin Walsh, this could mean if the school refuses to follow the decisions of the federal government, then, in an extreme case, it’s possible the government could cease funding the school.

How public universities such as IUPUI acquire most of its money is indirectly through students who apply, receive financial aid from the government and pay tuition. If the government discontinues financial aid to students there, then it is unlikely the same amount of students will be able afford education there. According to the University Institutional Research and Reporting web page, in the 2014-2015 school year alone, IUPUI received $46,244,125 in federal gift aid and awards from student enrollment.

There are also certain areas the federal government will contribute funds to a school for things such as medical research. These funds would also end if a school stopped complying with  government orders.

The email also stated the school respects the privacy of all students equally,  including their studies, work, and personal lives. The only way someone would communicate or use an immigrant's status would be when required by law or when necessary to protect a person's safety. Anyone who makes threats, intimidates or harrasses any member of the community will be investigated thoroughly and prosecuted if found guilty.

The Campus Citizen reached out to chancellor Paydar for comment. Unfortunately, we were told he was unavailable to meet with us due to his busy schedule.

In a meeting with Dennis Rudnick, Associate Director of IUPUI’s Multicultural Education and Research, we were not given much new information on the subject. We did confirm the facts about IUPUI’s pending action on the petition Paydar received a few weeks earlier.

Students in similar situations to Mariana will be keeping a close eye on the events to come throughout the next year. Policies and protests such as these could directly affect the lives of not only those students who are involved directly but the people and communities around them.

“Being a sanctuary campus may conflict with federal law, but knowing that my campus supports me and my fellow classmates makes me more compelled to stay here and finish my studies as a Jaguar,” Mariana said.