Cornell students and faculty gathered on the Arts Quad Thursday to demand that the University set up a designated fund for Cornellians with and without DACA status and strengthen its commitment to keeping student information private from federal immigration agents.
Prof. Russell Rickford, history, was an organizer of the event named “Sanctuary Now Cornell: Solidarity against Tyranny.” He estimated that 250 to 300 people attended the protest, which was hosted by Cornell Coalition for Inclusive Democracy.
CCID also asked the University to give housing and resources to students unable to travel, become a refuge for scholars “fleeing dangerous situations abroad” and “fight” in Albany and Washington D.C. to safeguard the community.
Students and faculty who gathered on the freezing but sunny Arts Quad listened to speeches regarding the rights of undocumented people and oppressive systems in the United States.
“Our endangered community members still lack explicit assurance that the institution that took them in will protect them,” Rickford said. “That’s shameful.”
Rickford led the crowd in chants including, “No ban. No wall. Sanctuary for all.” He also told the audience that “today we say no.”
“No more deportations,” he announced, “No more raids. No more fear. None of us live with dignity while such atrocities continue.”
Prof. Joe Margulies, government and law, said it is easy for future students to look back and imagine that they would have protested.
“Nothing is easier than to mythologize moments in the past and and to think, from the safe distance of time and space, that you would resist injustice when it appeared,” Margulies said. “You believe that you would oppose the Palmer Raids a century ago, but most people didn’t.”
He also spoke about how people protesting these struggles will not be in the majority.
“The truth is most people will never stand with you,” he said. “You will always be in a minority. But, the truth is, we look back on those periods now as periods of grave injustice, where time has turned against what was done. And you don’t need the majority; what you need is a very dedicated, involved minority.”
Cornell students — documented and undocumented alike — also spoke during the protest.
“Coming here, I walk through this quad everyday, and I look up at that clock tower, and I think that this institution was founded to be a place where any person can find instruction in any study, but Cornell puts barriers up in front of all undocumented people,” said Julia Montejo ’17, who identified herself as an undocumented student with DACA status.
Montejo said she did not receive financial aid from Cornell for three years and had to get aid from other sources.
“I had to sacrifice meals. I had to sacrifice having the right books. I had to do everything to thrive at this school,” Montejo said. “Now that Cornell’s caught up, which is a little late for many people, Cornell is refusing to explicitly state that CUPD will not cooperate with ICE. It’s refusing to explicitly state that they won’t help remove people.”
Angela Sun ’18 said the University should not be “swayed by the fear” of carrying out something because it is considered “super liberal.”
“As a university that’s full of so many different types of students, to have an administration that is very homogenous in either their thoughts, or their race, or their ethnicity, I think that’s a bad reflection of what the students want,” Sun said.
Two students represented Ithaca College in the protest. Anna Gardner, vice president of campus affairs for Ithaca College’s Student Governance Council, said that a recently passed SGC resolution will allow IC students to live in campus housing this summer.
“Currently, affected students can stay on campus during our spring break at no cost, and we’re working with our office of international programs and residential life to provide summer housing for these students as well,” Gardner said.
“Ithaca College and Cornell University have the opportunity to join forces as communities,” she continued. “We must stand together in opposition to discriminatory legislation and strengthen our local movement.”
Sophie May ’20, a participant in the protest, expressed optimism after observing faculty involvement in the rally.
“I’m excited about the idea that our faculty are standing up for both faculty and students and members of the community here who are being targeted or stand to be targeted by the shitty legislation going on in the Trump administration right now,” she said. “I think all the speakers who said this are right, that we have to stand on the right side of history right now. That’s being here.”