Chanting “No papers, no fear!” and “Here to stay!” about 300 students marched Wednesday from Wilder Bowl across Tappan Square, seeking to make Oberlin College a “sanctuary campus.”
The demonstration, part of protests on about 80 college campuses nationwide, was aimed at blocking President-elect Donald Trump’s plan for mass deportations of immigrants.
Trump’s plan would cut federal funding to “sanctuary cities” such as Oberlin.
Since 2009, Oberlin has barred denying city services to undocumented people here. And police do not inquire about the citizenship status of immigrants who seek help or are crime victims or witnesses.
Trump’s plan also includes overturning Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2012. It temporarily prevents deporting immigrants who came here illegally before they were 16 years old and who were under 31 in 2012; they must also have lived in the U.S. since 2007 and have not been convicted of felonies or “significant” misdemeanors.
Some Oberlin College students who have DACA protection could be deported under Trump’s plan, which made the demonstration personal.
Protest co-organizer Zurisaday Gutierrez Avila called on the college administration and campus police to not cooperate with federal authorities such as the bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She said college president Marvin Krislov and other leaders need to remember the school’s abolitionist past.
“Oberlin (College) must protect against policies that would violate the dignity and safety of undocumented immigrants,” Gutierrez Avila said to applause. “We’re gathered to make sure president Krislov responds promptly and publicly.”
The protest came after Krislov — who plans to quit June 30 — was presented Monday with a sanctuary campus petition signed by about 2,600 college alumni, faculty, students, and staff in response to Trump’s election.
College spokesman Scott Wargo didn’t say whether the administration would comply.
However, Gina Perez, a comparative American studies professor who helped write the petition, said Krislov and administrators have been receptive to the idea although specifics haven’t been discussed.
“This is an opportunity for them to take that next step in showing institutional support for undocumented students both locally and nationwide,” Perez said prior to the protest.
The number of Mexicans in the U.S. without documentation declined from 6.4 million in 2009 to 5.8 million in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. And the Obama administration deported 2.4 million immigrants, most of them Mexican, between 2009 and 2014.
Nonetheless, Trump campaigned on building a wall on the Mexican border and said Mexico was sending drug runners and rapists into the U.S.
Protestor Marcelo Vinces, director of the college’s Center for Learning, Education and Research in the Sciences, said Trump is demonizing immigrants.
Vinces, 41, said he came here illegally from Mexico with his parents as a three-year-old. He gained legal status as part of the 1986 amnesty signed by then-President Ronald Reagan and became a citizen as a teenager.
With congressional Republicans blocking Democratic efforts to create a path to citizenship, Vinces said he sympathizes with those who fear deportation. “I know what living in fear is like,” he said.
With deportation a centerpiece of the Trump campaign — he has vowed to remove all of the approximately 11 million immigrants here illegally — Gutierrez Avila said students are in for a difficult fight.
“White allies in particular must be prepared to put your bodies between Trump and undocumented people in our communities,” she said. “We must stand united to protect our most vulnerable people.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Photos by Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune Oberlin College students protest against President-elect Donald Trump’s mass deportation plan, calling on the school to become a “sanctuary campus” that shields undocumented immigrant students.