Plattsburgh State Gender and Women’s Studies Professor Simona Sharoni has launched a petition to turn PSUC into a sanctuary for those threatened by President-elect Donald Trump’s potential immigration and deportation policies and to call for new ways of thinking through intellectual engagement in the classroom.
Sharoni sent an email to PSUC faculty Wednesday asking for support and signatures for the movement. 24 hours after sending the email, Sharoni received signatures from 16 students, 13 faculty members, plus additional staff on campus, and she expects the number to grow before winter break.
PSUC is the second SUNY school to suggest the petition campus-wide, shortly after Stony Brook.
“The plan Trump’s announced for his first day, is to sign executive orders ending DACA (deferred action on childhood arrivals—dreamers), deport 2 million “criminal aliens” (people in-status, but with a conviction or an arrest in their background, even if it’s for a crime like failing to correctly identify yourself to a police officer), stopping migration from “terrorist” areas and cancelling visas (meaning Muslims). This means every college and university has students at risk,” Sharoni said in the email.
The DACA program protects young illegal immigrants, with no criminal record, who arrived to the United States with parents, and provides them paths to education and citizenship.
Trump released his 100-day plan in October, titled “Donald Trump’s Contract With The American Voter.” This outlined his plan for implementing policy and the contents of such policies.
“First, cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama. Second, begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Third, cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities. Fourth, begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back. Fifth, suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting,” Trump said in his plan.
One of the “unconstitutional executive actions” Trump plans to execute would be the DACA program.
The reversing of these policies, as Sharoni said, could pose a threat to first-generation college students and others in the community who may identify with a race, culture or religion in Trump’s scope.
Sharoni said she would like to see an office established on campus to help students navigate the legal and social issues that could potentially face them if Trump follows through with his planned protocol.
“On one level, it is symbolic,” she said. “But one the other level, it means that if immigration and customs enforcement, or any other federal entity, requests information about a student that the information would be withheld.”
Sharoni asked teachers and other faculty who signed the petition to provide their respective departments in order to let students know they can count on an alliance from at least one professor in each major. She also hopes to share the petition with dorm staff, so residents can feel safe in their halls as well.
“If we have a person in each department that students know is a safe person to go to, then we’ve found something.”
Sharoni also hopes the petition persuades teachers to update their curriculum to include more relevant subjects for students to talk about in class. She said the college should use its advantage as a “thinking space” to talk about what is going on in the world today as a part of learning. She said she would like to see development that “provides students with analytical framework and skills to make sense of what just happened in ways that are more complex and informed,” in regard to the presidential election.
Sharoni said this proposal is not too “radical” of a measure to take, as it can entice future students to consider the college if it becomes a sanctuary, but she understands why some people may be fearful to take the risk.
“We have to have mechanisms in place to not just have this on paper, but to let students and their parents know that we have their backs and we are going to do whatever it takes, even if it involves taking a risk, to keep them safe,” she said.
Sharoni pointed out this petition is not “anti-Trump,” but rather a way to examine responsibilities as a democratic nation.
Sharoni said she also hopes students use their “access to knowledge” to help their local communities that may not have the same flow of information. She said education is the key to understanding and finding solutions to political and social injustices.
As of Thursday, other schools nationwide such as Princeton, Dartmouth, NYU and all California State Universities were all willing to sign a similar petition, or have already proposed one.
“We need to take measures. We need to implement plans,” Sharoni said. “We need to be proactive and act in a preventive way.”
Email Marissa Russo at firstname.lastname@example.org