It’s been a full three weeks since Election Day. Yes, three entire weeks. Classes are in full swing and final exams are fast approaching. Many of us are probably struggling to play keep-up with course work, or deciding which classes to enroll in for the spring semester, or taking on internships and research opportunities. These are a few of the many things on our minds as we continue on our journey towards academic achievement and personal growth.
But for some, the results of the election have left them feeling doubtful. They question whether or not they will ever be able to reach their potential because of uncertainty about their futures and their places here on campus and in this country.
I’m talking about the many undocumented students, or DREAMers (a name taken from a proposed piece of legislation called the DREAM Act). They are young people who immigrated to this country as children, who graduated from high school in the United States, who are valuable members of our campus community, and who are every bit American as you and me — save for a piece of paper. These fellow students now fear that they will someday be separated from their family and loved ones as a result of Donald Trump’s promise to repeal president Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which has provided protection from deportation and temporary work permits for more than 700,000 DREAMers across the country. In a recent 60 Minutes interview Trump said he would also deport 2-3 million immigrants.
Nelson Melgar, a DACA recipient, is a member of the Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates, and he is trying to remain positive.
“I was thirteen when I came here,” Melgar said. “Having DACA is like breathing room. I was able to apply for work, I obtained health insurance. It allows me to be an active participant of society.”
Stony Brook University does not bar undocumented prospective students from enrolling in the university, and over the years, the campus has been home to many of these students. DACA has opened many doors for DREAMers like Melgar, who at twenty-six, has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and has co-founded a Latino civic association group on Long Island.
Trump’s disgusting and racist plan, which openly discriminates against people of color and of certain faiths, should not be tolerated in our country or on our campus. It is morally reprehensible and will erode all of the effort and progress our university has made to become an inclusive and safe place for everyone.
Students and professors are gathering momentum on college campuses all across the country to resist Trump’s threats of deportation and violence towards immigrants and people of color. One step taken by some schools — including Columbia University in New York City, Wesleyan University in Connecticut and all schools in the California State University system — is to become a sanctuary campus. A sanctuary campus could be defined as a university that pledges to protect students and all other members of the campus community from all forms of harassment, intimidation, and hate speech. It would also take steps to protect students from being targeted by immigration officials because they would not be allowed to enter campus and/or the university could refuse to release a student’s immigration status. These actions, which ought to be adopted by the university, would represent a step in the right direction, and are thus things we should strongly consider. It is also apparent that a number of our fellow Seawolves agree with this proposal. A petition titled “Make SUNY Stony Brook a Sanctuary Campus,” written and signed by professors and students, has garnered over 600 signatures and counting.
“We join with a growing number of campus communities across the United States that are calling on their institutions to become ‘sanctuary campuses’ that will protect community members — students, staff and faculty — from intimidation, unfair investigation, deportation,” states the petition, which will be sent to Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. once it collects a thousand signatures. A large number of Americans disagree with Trump’s proposals — he did lose the popular vote, after all — and more than 89 percent of students who voted on campus did not vote for Trump and his policies, according to Vote Everywhere at Stony Brook University. This, however, does not take away from the reality that he is going to become the next president of this country, and so we must face this reality with solutions to proposed plans we disagree with. We should invest in on-campus counseling and psychological services for students undergoing tremendous mental and emotional strains, and we should collaborate with outside nonprofit organizations.
The “Make SUNY Stony Brook a Sanctuary Campus” petition addresses some of the new challenges students might face under a Trump presidency. It proposes creating a specific office in the university to assist DACA and undocumented students on a strictly confidential basis and to schedule a community town hall meeting to “articulate Stony Brook’s commitment to, as articulated in the university’s mission statement, ‘celebrating diversity and positioning the University in the global community.’ ” We must communicate these ideas and concerns not just with President Stanley but with the State University of New York Board of Trustees, they help shape and create SUNY policy.
So, take the time to sign the petition. It’ll only take you less than a minute. Now that it’s been three weeks — yes, three whole entire weeks — since we’ve learned the results of the elections, it’s important that we pick ourselves up and not give into fear. It’s time that we stop looking at this as an abstract issue, but as a real danger, with or without DACA, to undocumented students, staff members and their family members. By making our school a safe, inclusive place for everyone, we are sending a powerful message to Trump and his followers that hate and intimidation have no place at Stony Brook.