Georgetown Must Support Undocumented Students

December 2, 2016

UndocuHoyas Protest in May Photo: Liz Teitz

For those residing in the United States without documentation, including approximately 65,000 students, an uncertain future awaits. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to eliminate the pathway to legal residency for 11 million people. Undocumented students on Georgetown’s campus and across the nation need support in order to access the education many others may take for granted.

We call on President DeGioia and the university administration to take actions to protect undocumented students. Along these lines, we ask that the university not release student information, including immigration statuses, to any group without a subpoena and that the university make an official and binding promise not to change the current admissions and financial aid policies regarding undocumented students.  This would mean making Georgetown as accessible and safe as possible for students who lack documentation, further strengthening the university’s commitment to their protection.

Georgetown appointed a coordinator for undocumented students on Nov. 22, three weeks after UndocuHoyas, an advocacy group for undocumented students on campus, began circulating a petition calling for the appointment. Two days before, DeGioia announced on Facebook that he had signed the Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This Tuesday, DeGioia sent out an email with general statements of the university’s commitment to safeguarding freedom of speech and religious liberty, to support the community against discrimination, and to “protect our undocumented students to the fullest extent of the law.”

These actions strengthen the university’s stance of support for undocumented students, and this editorial board strongly believes that Georgetown should continue to increase its commitment to providing support and education to this group. We support the university’s decision to hire an undocumented student coordinator, but it cannot stand alone. As undocumented individuals across the U.S. enter a newly uncertain and frightening time following the election of Donald Trump, we urge that the university continue to strengthen and clarify its stance.

Georgetown is one of many campuses across the nation where such actions are being considered. Trump has promised to repeal DACA, which has protected more than 700,000 people from deportation since the Obama administration introduced it. He has said that he plans to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants immediately upon taking office. In the wake of his election, other universities have declared themselves sanctuary campuses. This follows the example of several cities such as San Francisco and D.C. itself, which have declared themselves sanctuary cities.

This declaration means that that these cities have policies limiting their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement (although there is no accepted legal definition for the term). Trump has said he will respond to these efforts by blocking federal funding to these cities. Some city leaders have responded by saying even a substantial loss in funding will not deter them from continuing to protect undocumented residents.  

Georgetown must be unwavering in its support of undocumented students.  Although Trump has not yet applied these threats to universities, a discussion about Georgetown’s response to such a threat must be planned. For instance, if Georgetown were to lose federal funding, this could impact the university’s ability to meet full need for all admitted students. Avoiding the conversation about how universities will react to such potential responses threatens the integrity of the university’s commitments to undocumented students.

More information is undoubtedly necessary. However, Georgetown can carry out the policies of a sanctuary campus without declaring itself a sanctuary campus. The implications of naming Georgetown a sanctuary campus are not yet clear. What is clear is that the practical repercussions of naming the university a sanctuary campus may significantly outweigh the symbolic benefit of doing so.   

Sanctuary campus or not, the university needs to protect undocumented students, and then engage in a discussion of how best to uphold its Jesuit values over the next four years. If Georgetown fails to cement its commitment, its promises will mean little to those whose educations and lives on campus are at risk.

Editorial Board
The Editorial Board is the official opinion of the Georgetown Voice. Its current composition can be found on the masthead. The Board strives to publish critical analyses of events at both Georgetown and in the wider D.C. community. We welcome everyone from all backgrounds and experience levels to join us!


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