President Donald Trump’s immigration ban might be halted, but Plattsburgh State is still taking action to protect students. During last week’s PSUC Student Association meeting, a resolution was unanimously passed to make the campus a sanctuary school. Student Association President Vrinda Kumar was approached by Plattsburgh Town Superviser Michael Cashman as he introduced the idea to her.
“It’s basically the ability to keep all information about Muslim students and undocumented students confidential,” she said. “So if there is an executive order, and if the federal government tries to get this information, the school doesn’t have to follow that. That way, the students studying here can stay safe.”
Kumar said that she was surprised when the executive order was passed in the first place, which was why she felt the SUNY system needed to take action. She said even though the ban might be halted for now, students should still be aware.
“We didn’t expect anyone to release an order about the seven countries,” she said. “So just because it’s halted right now doesn’t mean it can’t happen again because right now, you really don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Trump still has several options to reinstate the executive order to ban all refugees from entering the country, such as appealing the Supreme Court, fighting the case in the district court or by simply rewriting the order, according to an article in The Atlantic.
“So I guess this was really needed to make sure that if it does happen, and if the ban is brought back, and more countries are included for some reason, then students still remain safe because there was a lot of talk about more countries being included on the list.”
Kumar said that even though the SA passed the resolution, they have to wait until the Board of Trustees pass the resolution for the campus to be considered sanctuary. She said she hopes it does get passed because there are students who are concerned with what will be next for the country.
Trump also recently signed an executive order to enhance public safety by striping federal grant money to so-called sanctuary cities, according to an article in NBC News.
Kumar said she will be meeting with SA presidents to discuss the next step toward making the campus sanctuary. In the meantime, Kumar said students can still take action. She said going to the GEO office is the best resource on campus for international students.
GEO International Student Adviser Amelia Lushia said the office hasn’t been too chaotic since the ban has been halted. She said many international students’ parents are encouraging them to stay in the United States over the summertime.
“The scariest part for families from countries you’d never think make the list is that it happened so fast,” she said. “Usually in immigration, it takes months before there’s a change like that. There’s a lot of time for public comment. Because it happened so quick, people are worried.”
Besides striving to make PSUC a sanctuary campus, students are also encouraged to continue to show up to the PSUC forums that are designed for an open discussion.
“There’s been a lot of support from the community from other students who stood up at that event. At the first forum, students were saying to international students that they can come with them and stay at their house,” she said. “I thought that the outpouring of support was really amazing.”
During the second forum, students were encouraged to brainstorm a list of actions to be taken to help promote a safe space for PSUC.
“I think it went well. Both faculty and staff members went to the second forum,” said GEO Staff Assistant Laura Scott.
Scott also said that there will be emails sent to faculty and students regarding the different actions that can be taken to move forward. Lushia said these types of open discussions on campus promote an educational moment because there are students who aren’t concerned with the ban as well.
“I do think it’s a privilege. It’s being in a privileged position where you don’t have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to be an international student here in the U.S.,” she said.
Lushia said she received emails recently from prospective students in Japan and Jamaica who had concerns about what was happening with immigration.
“In Jamaica, there was some misinformation about what was going on here. Jamaica would never be on the list,” Lushia said. “The fear is even bigger than just someone in the Middle East. There’s people in Jamaica and Japan that are worried about this.”
Scott said that this type of privilege goes beyond someone’s inconvenience. She said she knows a lot of American students who are friends with international students, but she also knows a lot of international students tend to connect with one another.
“Regardless of what country they’re from, they can empathize with each other on another level. There are lives and safety issues at stake, so it’s possible that a lot of Americans aren’t thinking too much about that,” Scott said. “They just hear what’s in the news and aren’t connecting with it on a strong level.”
“All of us live in our own bubbles sometimes. I hope this raised awareness that their classmates sitting next to them, depending on their immigration status have a different perspective,” Lushia said.
Email Kavita Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org