Faculty Demand FIU Become "Sanctuary Campus" for Immigrants

Florida International University is one of the most diverse schools in the nation. Some 81 percent of students are racial or ethnic minorities, and FIU advertises itself as the country's largest “Hispanic-serving institution.” Some of those students are undocumented "dreamers" who have benefited from President Barack Obama's DACA plan, which allows them to attend college legally.

All of which is to say that if President-elect Donald Trump follows through on his pledge to cancel DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and crack down on undocumented immigrants, FIU's student body could be hit hard.

More than a hundred faculty members at the school are now urging FIU to prepare for that possibility — and to resist a federal crackdown by becoming a "sanctuary campus." What would that mean exactly?

In a letter sent last night, the teachers urge the college to "develop a plan for protecting undocumented students and refuse to cooperate with any efforts to identify, detain, or deport undocumented students even if DACA is repealed or any other laws or policies change."

The letter echoes similar efforts nationwide by colleges to carve out a space for immigrants and minorities threatened by Trump's xenophobic campaign. In Florida, students at New College and at FIU have also urged campus leaders to enact "sanctuary campus" rules.

But the new letter represents the biggest statement yet by a faculty at a Sunshine State college. The statement was written by Asia Eaton, a psychology and women's and gender studies professor; and Jason Ritchie, an anthropologist.

The professors say Trump's rhetoric has left a diverse campus like FIU reeling.

"As educators at Florida International University, one of the largest and most diverse American universities... our top priority is our students," the professors' statement says. "We are deeply worried about the dangers of a Trump presidency to their well-being and to the educational mission of our university."

The teachers argue that, whatever Trump may claim, a diverse student body — including undocumented students who benefit from DACA — make FIU stronger. "Many of our brightest students are dreamers; their dreams do not weaken our campus — or this country: they make us better," they write.

The FIU faculty argues there's a strong historical precedent to resisting federal pressure to out undocumented students or to take away their merit-based scholarships.

"This movement draws on a tradition of providing safe haven to vulnerable populations that dates back to the refusal of individuals and institutions to comply with fugitive slave laws," they write. "In that spirit, we call on our administration to declare Florida International University a sanctuary campus."

FIU didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the letter.  You can read the full letter here:

FIU Faculty for Sanctuary by Tim Elfrink on Scribd

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
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