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November 18, 2016

In Letter, Hundreds of Cornellians Demand Sanctuary for Undocumented Students

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As of Friday afternoon, over 250 students, faculty and alumni have signed a letter — publicized today — demanding that the University’s administration make Cornell a “sanctuary” for undocumented students.

Citing the University’s “any person, any study” motto, the letter’s authors expressed concerns for students’ safety in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, saying Cornell has a responsibility to “maintain an environment in which all of our students can learn without fear.” The president-elect has repeatedly vowed to take actions to deport millions of immigrants.

“We ask that you honor Ithaca’s tradition of being a place of sanctuary as well as Cornell’s historical roots in the abolition movement, by making an unequivocal statement of support for undocumented persons and their families,” the letter says.

The letter asks the administration to release a statement denouncing violence and hate speech directed at immigrants, as well as provide legal and counseling services for Cornellians affected by new government policies.

The document also requests that the University guarantee funding for undocumented and international students, raising concerns about Trump’s promise to eliminate executive actions like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — a policy enacted by President Barack Obama that allows immigrants who came to the country as children to live and work in the United States.

Finally, the letter asks the administration to make the campus a space safe from U.S. immigration officials and refrain from releasing “information that can make students vulnerable.”

“We cannot evade our responsibility to the present and the future,” the letter continues. “We ask you to stand on the right side of history.”

  • zeke

    Perhaps the Trump administration should proclaim that any university that refuses to cooperate with US immigration policy shall receive no federal grants and no federal aid shall be provided to any students attending any such university. After all, various courts have ruled that the federal government is solely responsible for immigration matters.

  • JaneD

    Why on earth should Cornell guarantee funding for undocumented and international students? Do you really want a school that is a “safe space” from law enforcement – what happens when there is a crime other than illegal immigration that needs to be investigated? I don’t think these students have really thought through the consequences of their demands.

    • Cornellian1

      Thank you for your concern!! Cornell has a great police department and cooperates with the Ithaca Police department. For many years now they have tackled, successfully, any incident on campus. Including bias and hate incidents.

      • Concerned

        Thank you, Cornell PD, for trying to keep students, faculty, and staff safe. The bias and assault cases of the past few years show that you have enough work on your plate. You are not ICE agents, and will never be paid like ICE agents. Assisting with the round up and deportation of young people was never in your job description. You don’t need to do their job for them. If there was ever an assignment that will haunt you, this is it.

  • A J

    America is a country of immigrants and we believe in immigration, but we also are a nation of laws, and there is a difference between legal immigration and illegal immigration. We don’t believe in people cutting the line and not following the rules. Try taking a group to cut the line at Disney world and see what happens, one or two people will be allowed, but people start getting angry when more than that cut them in line. It is the same here. It is one thing to change the laws, but until and if they are changed, Cornell should not try to circumvent the rules and laws in our country.

  • op

    i think thats called aiding a fugitive.

  • Howard Roark


    • Mark

      There are what you call “illegals” here because they are academically qualified. They have lived in the US since the age of 3 or 4 or 5 or, in the case of one student, all but the first 100 days of his life, have attended kindergarten, primary school, middle school, and high school in the US and have compiled such an enviable academic record that they have been admitted to institutions like Cornell, Swarthmore, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, Harvard, Amherst, Bryn Mawr, the University of Pennsylvania, and many others.

      I dispute your use of the word “illegals” in this context, since immigration status can easily change, and frequently does, from “illegal” to “legal,” or (as may happen with Trump) from “legal” to “illegal,” simply because of changes in US immigration policy.

      A good example of “illegal”-to-“legal” is the mother of the last Republican governor of New York, George Pataki. According to him, his mother arrived in the country traveling on her sister’s passport, something quite common but obviously illegal. She didn’t overstay her visa because she fell ill, fell in love, or received erroneous advice from a neighborhood immigration counseling center: she was completely illegal from the start. Nonetheless, she was later able to legalize her status, and although I am not a Republican, I think we are better off for it.

      A good example of “legal”-to-“illegal” may occur if Trump tries to make illegal those DREAM students who are currently legal because of the policy of the Obama administration.

  • Ithacan

    The letter has now been signed by over a thousand faculty, students, and staff. It asks the administration to stand with all those who feel under attack–whether they be Muslim, LGBT, undocumented, etc. Cornell and Ithaca have a long tradition of speaking out for those under attack.

  • Serious Question

    Just a question but is there a difference between an undocumented student and an international one?

    • Other Serious Questions

      Yes, they have nothing to do with each other. Nobody has a problem with international students. Undocumented essentially means illegal immigrants. I’m sure others will provide more nuance.

  • Other Serious Questions

    1) What exactly does “sanctuary” mean in this context? Is it a precisely defined legal term of some sort? I’m not aware of organizations being able to legally ignore laws they don’t like regardless of the circumstances and thus this strikes me as a very bizarre demand.

    2) What is the basis for universities to have their own police forces et al instead of just being addressed by the local police, in our case the Ithaca police department?

    3) Regardless of what you think ought to happen, why, legally, should a university be able to override the actions of the US president with a petition, protest, or other form of demanding by an apparently quite vocal minority of the campus population? This seems like a complete disregard to the will of the part of the country that voted for Trump, who clearly do not want illegal immigrants to come here with impunity.