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The Carletonian

Carleton Affirms Protections for DACA Students

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Carleton and the city of Northfield reaffirmed their commitment to protect undocumented students and residents after the election of Donald Trump.

Carleton promises to ensure DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students’ full financial aid awards and safety on campus, while Northfield passed resolutions emphasizing the city as safe, welcoming, and inclusive to immigrants. President-elect Trump has threatened to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities and plans to eliminate DACA.

Daniel Tamez ’19, co-director and co-founder of ADMIRE, Carleton’s student group supporting DACA students and immigration reform, said DACA students feel anxious and uncertain about their futures under the new administration.

“We’re always going to feel threatened, scared and intimidated by the entire situation for the next four years. There’s very little we can do about that,” said Tamez.

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in response to the election, a group of Carleton faculty drafted a letter petitioning the college administration to declare itself a “sanctuary center of higher education…to demonstrate our commitment to protecting and supporting our community members in the face of deportation, investigation, or acts of intimidation or violence.”

Spearheaded by Professors Anita Chikkatur, Adriana Estill, Dan Hernandez and Al Montero, the letter was signed by over 150 faculty members, out of 218 full-time faculty members, and was modeled on similar letters created at other colleges and universities nationwide.

Professor Estill said that “post-election, we asked ourselves: ‘What is our responsibility as educators and community members to make a promise to protect all of our community members and make everyone feel welcome here?’

“We knew in some ways that the letter was a symbolic gesture, but a really important one, in that it was asking the administration to do things that were already put in place, but that we just didn’t realize were present.”

In the days after the election, President Steven Poskanzer and Dean Carolyn Livingston contacted the Board of Trustees to ensure that DACA students would continue to receive financial aid packages, regardless of their status.

DACA students received a letter promising support regardless of changes in federal regulations and a college pledge to continue to admit DACA students.

According to Livingston, this plan “was in the pipeline already,” prior to the election. “There are various times throughout the year where there is legislation or a court decision that impacts our DACA students, so there is a concerted effort on our part to reach out individually to all the DACA students and say that we can imagine that this is a difficult time and to let us know how we can be helpful and supportive.”
The Board of Trustees “overwhelmingly supported” the pledge to protect DACA students, according to Livingston.

“We are going to provide the most support that we can, legally and lawfully. We’re a community that cares deeply about our DACA students,” said Livingston.

Additionally, the College will unveil a website designed to provide information about available resources for DACA students, including material on local immigration clinics and lawyers.
“The website will be a very useful source of information, which we haven’t had. It’s unfortunate that it took the election to spark the initiative, but I’m happy it happened nonetheless. It’s a step in the right direction,” said Tamez.

Tamez added that “for right now, Carleton has definitely lived up to the end of what they committed to us [previously].
“They promised us support, and they followed through with those promises. To see them fulfill that promise was really encouraging for me and the other DACA students, as they could have very easily taken a step back.”

Although the November 15th letter called for Carleton to become a sanctuary campus, which indicates that a city or campus has adopted a policy of protecting undocumented immigrants, the College presently avoids the label.

“For the college, does naming ourselves a sanctuary campus toss a big spotlight on our community members who are most at risk?” asked Professor Estill.

Dean Livingston echoed this sentiment, saying the label could bring “unnecessary attention to a vulnerable segment of the campus.”

After the election, Northfield also took action to support its undocumented community, according to mayor-elect Rhonda Pownell.

In addition to participating in the Government Alliance for Race and Equity to normalize conversations about race, Pownell said that Northfield’s “formal actions include a Safe, Inclusive, and Welcoming Community Resolution and an Employee Conduct Regarding Immigration Status Personnel Policy, which is a separation policy to emphasize the separate role of local law enforcement and all employees, from federal immigration enforcement.”

In December, Northfield’s city council considered becoming a sanctuary city, but ultimately, like Carleton, decided against the label.

“We clearly heard not only from our Latino leaders in the Northfield community but also from some members of the Latino community themselves that they did not want the city to seek sanctuary city status,” Pownell said.

“They felt that this may put an unnecessary target upon our community members, which would have the opposite and negative effect of a well-intentioned policy,” said Pownell.

Both Dean Livingston and Tamez emphasized that prior to President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the future impact of his immigration policy remains uncertain. This uncertainty complicates the actions of both the city and the college.

“I think their actions are a great first step,” said Tamez. “It’s a sign to take a stand against Trump’s policies and to show support for the undocumented and DACA community and it made me feel more supported and more safe. I’m not alone in this, and I know a lot of DACA students felt the same way.”

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