Letters to the Editor

Syracuse University student calls on chancellor to protect rights of undocumented community members

On Nov. 16, 1,000 Syracuse and ESF students and faculty walked out of their classes to declare our institution a sanctuary campus—as a place that will, if and when necessary, help support and haven our undocumented community members from president-elect Donald Trump’s oft-made threats of mass deportation.

On Dec. 7, Chancellor Kent Syverud sent a letter to the university community in which he indirectly acknowledged this recent act of solidarity and outlined actions his administration has taken to ensure the university’s continued support for undocumented students. I am grateful for Chancellor Syverud’s expressed support for DACA and the undocumented students it protects— students who contribute much to Syracuse University.

However, I was concerned to see the Chancellor—himself a lawyer by training—describe our compliance with federal law in fixed and fatalistic terms, ultimately conceding, “Syracuse University simply cannot ignore federal laws.” To Chancellor Syverud I ask, what will you do when we encounter laws that are unjust and directly at odds with the professed values of our community?

Chancellor Syverud has, by implication, suggested that the University can at once further “our collective commitment to inclusion” and comply with potential government-sanctioned deportation of community members. I worry that his professed acceptance to the laws that govern us only undercuts the values that he seeks to uphold. By implicitly accepting the inevitability and legitimacy of all laws, regardless of the intent toward which they are applied, he has ceded moral and strategic ground. He has told us we have no choice. We must comply; we will comply.

But the laws that govern us are not value-neutral, and as a community we should not passively accede to a rule of law that violates the values we cherish and fight for. To accept law in the abstract is to abandon our efforts to create a campus that is, by the Chancellor’s words, “welcome, safe and supportive.”

Given president-elect Trump’s continued promises to deport millions of undocumented Americans, I fear there will come a time when we will be forced to do more than express rhetorical support for DACA and the students affected by it. Ultimately, the common values that Chancellor Syverud professes will either be violated by our collective acquiescence or upheld by our (and, consequently, his) collective resistance. We cannot, as a community, lay claim to these values unless we are willing to vigorously defend them.

Jon Erickson, Graduate Student

Geography Department, Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs

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