‘Safe haven’ proposed at Santa Rosa Junior College to shield undocumented and vulnerable students
Santa Rosa Junior College has joined the growing number of schools and colleges across California and the nation that are grappling with how to calm nerves in their diverse student populations as President Donald Trump’s administration gears up to crack down on illegal immigration.
The college recently organized a campuswide town hall meeting, giving students an opportunity to air their concerns over Trump’s rhetoric and plans to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
In what looks to be a closely watched vote Tuesday, the college’s board of trustees is set to decide on a resolution declaring the college a “safe haven” for its hundreds of undocumented students, prohibiting federal immigration agents from accessing its campuses and student records without approval from college President Frank Chong.
The measure, crafted with input from students, faculty and staff, prohibits the campus from releasing personal information about students, including immigration status, without a court order, judicial warrant or subpoena. It also prohibits professors and other campus employees from outing undocumented students and campus police from questioning or making arrests solely on a person’s immigration status.
“It’s a watershed moment for us,” Chong said.
He recently added his name to a petition urging federal officials to uphold and expand a program created under President Barack Obama’s administration — one that Trump has pledged to act on in the coming weeks — that allows immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children to obtain worker permits and temporary relief from deportation. The petition, started at Pomona College, has support from more than 600 college presidents around the country, including those from Yale, Harvard and Sonoma State University.
“It’s a very dangerous and slippery slope when you start saying we welcome all students — except these students,” Chong said in an interview last week. “You start getting away from the fundamental principle of community colleges, which is one of open access.”
The resolution comes as a number of colleges and school districts across the state have taken similar stances to support their undocumented students. At SRJC, it follows a move by administrators to reaffirm the campus’s nondiscrimination policy, a safeguard covering students, faculty and staff.
Shortly after Trump’s election last year, the University of California issued a statement, vowing to support and protect undocumented students and not allow campus police departments to enter into agreements with federal immigration agents or arrest anyone because of immigration status. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office followed days later with a similar statement, reaffirming that the system of 113 colleges would continue to advocate for all students, regardless of status, and that it would not cooperate with federal officials in creating a registry of people based on religion, race, birthplace or sexual orientation.
Santa Rosa City Schools last month declared its K-12 district, the largest in Sonoma County, a safe haven for immigrant families, barring federal immigration agents from coming onto campus without the superintendent’s approval. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson had recommended all public schools adopt that stance in December. The Sonoma County Office of Education and Sonoma Valley and Windsor school districts followed suit, adopting similar resolutions.
At Sonoma State University, President Judy Sakaki issued a statement in January, affirming that the university will not honor immigration hold requests, arrest individuals because of immigration status, or enter into any agreement with immigration authorities.