As a part of the national “sanctuary campus” movement, more than 100 Yale students and New Haven residents gathered on Cross Campus on Wednesday to petition for Yale to protect undocumented immigrants.
The nationwide event was organized by the Movimiento Cosecha, established in 2014 to promote the well-being of America’s immigrants. This May, its members blocked the entrance to Trump Tower in New York City to protest President-elect Donald Trump’s policies. After his election, Cosecha began the sanctuary campus initiative to encourage college campuses to provide concrete support for undocumented students.
“I think that what no one could argue with is that a university and a college campus have a moral responsibility to make the students that are paying tuition and just want to get an education feel safe,” said Carlos Rojas Rodriguez, the organizer of the walkouts, in a public statement.
Standing on the Women’s Table, several community leaders and activists spoke out at the event. Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr., the author of a petition to keep New Haven’s status as a sanctuary city, said he fully supports the movement to declare Yale a sanctuary campus. Ramon Garibaldo Valdez GRD ’22, an undocumented immigrant, added that many residents sharing his legal status feel unsafe and are unsure about their future.
“Right now there is a war against my community,” Valdez said during his speech at the event. “For the next week, next two weeks, the next four years, I want you to think about them. I need you to remember the undocumented person you just thought of.”
In his first post-election interview on “60 Minutes,” Trump stated that his immediate plan was to deport only those undocumented immigrants with a criminal record — affecting 2 to 3 million people. Other speakers at the event also reminded the audience that deportation would not be a new issue: President Barack Obama’s administration had sent about 3 million people to their countries of origin.
In one of his last remarks, one of the walkout organizers Dax Crocker DIV ’17, had an unexpected message for Trump’s supporters.
“We love you,” he said. “Even if you voted for Trump, we love you and we want to understand you, and we want you to understand us.”
However, Crocker also said University President Peter Salovey should be held accountable for protecting the “most vulnerable members” of the University’s community.
Earlier on Wednesday, Salovey issued an official statement saying that even before the election, the University had already been working on addressing the potential changes to immigration law that the new president might bring.
“A group of faculty experts, students and University administrators are analyzing the many complex legal issues and exploring possible responses,” Salovey wrote in an email to the Yale community. “We are already working with local, state and federal officials to address these important policy issues, and we will be monitoring any changes closely.”
He added that the University’s primary concern is the success of Yale students and the assurance that all of them will be able to graduate.
Still, in response to the University’s statement, Garibaldo Valdez said he and the other protest organizers felt that an email was not enough, though they appreciated Salovey’s efforts.
“We … need them to realize the extremity of the times,” Garibaldo Valdez said. “We need the University to promptly work with undocumented students and allies towards creating policies that turn Yale into a sanctuary campus that actively protects immigrant students and community members. We believe not only that the University has the capacity, but the obligation to do it.”
Around the country, around 130 universities registered with Cosecha to participate in Wednesday’s walkouts