Letters to the Editor

Our Reader: Students deserve honesty and compassion from candidates, not empty rhetoric

At a recent Student Association presidential debate, candidate Tyler Rossi stated that becoming a sanctuary campus “makes us less safe” and stated that it “puts us on the map as a target.” This tired line has been used extensively in the past weeks to fight against sanctuary campuses across the country, and it shows a lack of understanding about the meaning of a sanctuary campus designation, as well as a lack of empathy for some of our most vulnerable students.

Advocates for sanctuary campus designation are not advocating that our university break the law. They are advocating that the university fulfill its legal requirements, and only those requirements, as it pertains to immigration. This involves the university refusing to use DPS officers, who are funded by student money, to enforce immigration decisions. It also involves refusing to provide immigration information, and not collecting that immigration in the first place unless legally required to do so. It is a policy of lawful non-cooperation, not one of illegality, and a policy that asks the federal government to continue living up to its own rules and policies. 

It is true that President Donald Trump has threatened to cut funds from universities that declare themselves sanctuaries. However, the American Council on Education has not identified any regulations that would allow for this to occur. The federal government is not allowed to punish schools for asking that they adhere to the letter of the law, and is not allowed to take vengeance for protecting students’ rights in lawful fashion. Students deserve honesty, and any candidate who states that the risk of loss of funding is large is engaging in grandstanding and hyperbole.

All of this is secondary to a greater concern: that of compassion. The argument that sanctuaries make us “unsafe” drives a narrative of “othering” undocumented students, and serves as a dog-whistle for the narrative that undocumented students bring violence to their communities. Factually, sanctuary campuses and cities typically see less violence than comparable non-sanctuary peers, so this narrative could not be further from the truth. Undocumented students are our peers, our neighbors, our colleagues and our friends. They make up an integral part of the fabric of America, and no human deserves to be called illegal. By stating that Syracuse should not declare itself a sanctuary, should not stand up for some of its most vulnerable of students, we state that these students are unimportant. Undocumented students deserve our compassion and our protection in a political time that threatens the very nature of their existence. 

In my work as the president of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, I have had the pleasure of meeting students from all walks of life, including the undocumented students. I have never seen any evidence that these students are anything less than exemplary contributors to their communities, and I firmly believe that we have an obligation to protect them. Students deserve presidential candidates that will represent the whole student community and will stand up for students across campus, including undocumented and international students as well as domestic students. They deserve candidates who will place action behind their words and not rely on false narrative, and they deserve compassion. 

Samuel Leitermann

President and CEO, National Association of Graduate-Professional Students

Graduate Student, Math Education, Class of 2017

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