UO offers sanctuary to illegal immigrant students

The University of Oregon is vowing to “protect” illegal immigrant students by refusing to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts.

“We’re going to protect our students the best that we can do, consistent with the law of the nation,” UO President Michael Schill announced Thursday, according to The Register-Guard.

[RELATED: ‘Sanctuary campus’ leaders admit colleges can’t ban ICE]

The University Senate adopted a resolution Wednesday requesting that the administration do as much as possible to protect the university’s illegal immigrant students in response to fears that the election of Donald Trump will result in large-scale deportations, and approximately 100 UO students held a demonstration the same day to voice their support for the measure.

In accordance with the resolution, Schill declared the next day that UO will not aid immigration officials in rounding up the undocumented students “without a judge’s order or some imminent threat to health and safety,” and that university police will not “stand in” for immigration officials when it comes to enforcing the immigration laws.

Immigration activists have applauded the resolution, calling it a part of a “sanctuary” movement dedicated to fighting against mass deportations, but Schill eschewed that terminology in his statement.

“We’re not calling it ‘sanctuary.’ I don’t know what ­‘sanctuary’ means,” he protested. “I can tell you what we’re going to do and what we won’t do, and if that fits the definition of sanctuary, then that’s what we’re doing.”

[RELATED: National walkout seeks ‘sanctuary’ for illegal immigrant students]

Around 20 undocumented students attend UO under Oregon’s 2013 tuition equity law, which allows undocumented students who attended high school in ­Oregon to pay in-state tuition, and several of those students study or work at UO under President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for ­Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive ­order.

Since 2013, this order has allowed undocumented students to attend school, obtain work permits, and be licensed to drive without the possibility of facing deportation, but Trump has vowed to cancel DACA once he takes office in January.

Nonetheless, Andrea Williams, the executive director of a Salem-based immigrant rights organization, said she is pleased with the university’s decision, even if she doesn’t expect it to be a panacea.

“It’s a huge thing that the university came out and said, ‘We’re going to support our immigrant students.’ It goes a long way,” Williams asserted. “But it doesn’t mean the students’ fears are going to be quelled. It doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be nervousness and stress just because it’s still a very, very real reality.”

[RELATED: Arizona college imposes annual student fee to fund illegal immigrant scholarships]

“I personally know a handful of ­students who are terrified of the changes that are going on,” opined UO professor Jane Cramer. “I do know students who would very much appreciate the safety of this.”

Williams, however, cautioned that “We really just don’t know what’s going to happen,” saying, “we don’t want to scare people right now. But it is important people can understand what could ­happen.”

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