Oberlin College is now a “sanctuary campus” and won’t voluntarily cooperate with the federal government in deporting unauthorized immigrant students.
In response to a petition signed by about 2,800 students and faculty, college president Marvin Krislov said Thursday that the “long-standing practice” will now become the college’s official policy.
In a written statement, Krislov said the college would only cooperate if required to do so by a “court order, subpoena, warrant, or other lawfully authorized directive.”
The statement came after a Nov. 16 march by some 300 students that was part of a day of nationwide college campus protests against mass deportations promised by President-elect Donald Trump.
Krislov said he was inspired by the students.
“Our commitment to inclusion has always been, and will continue to be, a fight for justice in the face of social, political, and economic injustice,” he said. “Undocumented students in the United States have organized with passion, courage, and determination to dismantle barriers related to immigration status on campuses and beyond.”
He vowed to work with city officials. Oberlin became a “sanctuary city” in 2009. The city doesn’t inquire about any resident’s immigration status but will cooperate with immigration authorities if required to by federal law.
During his campaign, Trump vowed to deport all of the approximately 11 million immigrants here illegally. Trump has subsequently said he plans to start with two to three million who he said have criminal records.
The actual number of unauthorized immigrants with criminal convictions last year was about 820,000, according to the Migration Policy Institute, which analyzed U.S. Department of Homeland Security statistics. About 300,000 had felony convictions and 390,000 had misdemeanor convictions with sentences of 90 days or more.
Mass deportations would include immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order signed by President 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 665,o00 people had DACA protection through March of last year, according to Homeland Security.
Trump has vowed to overturn DACA, but Krislov said he signed on to a statement signed by more than 400 college presidents supporting it. The statement said preserving and expanding DACA is a “moral imperative and a national necessity.”
Krislov said if DACA is overturned, the college would assist students who were covered under it. Help would include legal support and getting rides for students who lose their driver’s licenses.
It is unclear how many of the college’s roughly 2,900 students have DACA status, but the group Obies for Undocumented Inclusion, formed last year, supports them.
Group member Zurisday Gutierrez Avila, who helped lead the Nov. 16 march, said the group will continue to raise awareness about unauthorized immigrants and fight for them.
“I’m just really glad that this is happening at least at Oberlin College and I really hope that other colleges take a stand as well,” said the junior, who hails from San Diego.
Professor Gina Perez, who co-authored the petition, said she was also pleased with Krislov’s stance. Perez said she’s optimistic that whomever succeeds Krislov, who plans to quit in June, will maintain the college’s sanctuary status.
Perez, who teaches comparative American studies, said the risk of sanctuary campuses losing federal taxpayer aid is lessened by showing solidarity.
“It makes it a lot harder to go after hundreds and thousands of colleges and universities when people stand together to take a moral position in support of undocumented students,” she said. “If we don’t take a stand because we’re kind of afraid of what will happen, then you’re kind of left paralyzed.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.