University President Anthony P. Monaco announces his support of undocumented students at Tufts after a campus-wide walkout on Nov. 16, 2016. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

University President Anthony P. Monaco announces his support of undocumented students at Tufts after a campus-wide walkout on Nov. 16, 2016. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

Monaco releases statement pledging protection, legal counsel to undocumented students

University President Anthony Monaco released a statement yesterday titled “Supporting and Protecting our DACA and Undocumented Students,” calling for an enhancement of Tufts’ commitment to its undocumented students in the face of possible changes in federal immigration law under the coming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

In the statement, Monaco asserts that Tufts intends to resist any potential efforts by immigration officials to conduct investigations or deportations of Tufts students to the extent that it is legally permissible.

“The university will not provide information about our students or assist in the enforcement of immigration laws except as mandated by a subpoena, warrant or court order. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement investigations into serious criminal activity or threats to public safety or security,” the statement reads.

Monaco also reaffirms Tufts’ intentions to continue to support undocumented students financially, adding that undocumented students would have access to legal counsel who could “advise them on their status.”

However, the statement is unclear on whether Tufts would use grants to supplement federal funding that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students currently receive if their DACA status is revoked under Trump’s presidency.

“We will closely monitor developments at the federal level and continue to assess the impact on Tufts of any new federal policies,” the statement reads.

The announcement comes almost two weeks after a Nov. 16 walkout organized by Tufts United for Immigrant Justice (UIJ), during which Monaco was presented with a student petition calling for Tufts to be designated a “sanctuary campus.”

Though Monaco’s statement shares several characteristics of sanctuary campuses, the letter does not designate Tufts specifically as a sanctuary campus.

If Tufts were to be designated a sanctuary campus, all lands or structures owned or operated by the university would be a secure place for undocumented people; Tufts would be required to promise not to release information about undocumented students and community members, as well as to refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities seeking to conduct raids; the university would have to offer immigration legal services to assist students and community members; and the university would be required to establish an Office for Undocumented Student Support.

Representatives from the university did not respond to the Daily’s request for comment on the omission of the term “sanctuary campus” in its statement by press time.

However, the statement asserts that Tufts policy “is consistent with what Somerville, one of our host communities, has had in place for some time.”

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone has specifically designated Somerville a “sanctuary city,” and has vowed to protect undocumented residents even in the face of a resultant decrease in federal funding.

If [funding is lost,] we have to tighten our belts but we’re not going to react to a Damocles of money hanging over our heads as a catalyst to abandon our neighbors, our friends [and] our families,” he said. “We’re not going to let that happen. We’re not going to run away from who we are.”

Curtatone said he found Monaco’s statement “powerful.”

“I would love to see them become a sanctuary campus, but I know President Monaco and his values are certainly in line with the values of Somerville,” he said.

Curtatone added that he is happy to see universities at the forefront of progressive efforts like the sanctuary campus movement.

“I think the need in our society for that next generation to start the new movement towards a … progressive democratic agenda, which starts on our campuses,” he said. “Here’s an incredible opportunity, an absolute need for students to mobilize.”

UIJ member Olivia Dehm, who helped organize the Nov. 16 walkout, said that while she thought it could have taken a more steadfast stance, she found the statement reassuring.

“The Tufts administration has been and continues to be uniquely cooperative with UIJ, and what I interpret and appreciate is a genuine commitment to working towards making sure our campus is safe for undocumented students come January,” Dehm, a senior, told the Daily in an electronic message.

She added that she was not overly bothered by the statement’s omission of the term “sanctuary campus.”

“I hope that this declaration [of Tufts as a sanctuary campus] will come eventually, but what matters most is true safety for undocumented people on Tufts campus,” she said. “We don’t know what we are facing with a Trump administration — I don’t want the term ‘sanctuary campus’ to eventually mean there is a target on our backs.”

However, Dehm also said that some of the statement’s language was insensitive to the experiences of undocumented families, specifically by the sentence, “These students, who were brought to our country by their families, have distinguished themselves academically and contributed positively to their communities.”

“To me, that line was a manifestation of the larger harmful narrative around undocumented immigration, a narrative that places blame and presumed criminality on undocumented parents,” Dehm said. “Tufts is at the forefront of a national movement — we are in a position to advance a new narrative about immigration, and for this reason we must critically hone our rhetoric.”

Max Lalanne contributed reporting on this article. 

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