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New Mexico professors seeking immigrant student protections

KOB.com Web Staff and The Associated Press
November 18, 2016 11:32 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A group of professors at the largest university in the nation's most Hispanic state are asking for more protection of immigrant students.

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Professors and instructors at the University of New Mexico are delivering a letter Friday to the school's president, Bob Frank, amid uncertainty from immigrant students who are living in the country illegally but have temporary protective status.

The University of New Mexico has long allowed immigrant students who are living in the country illegally to attend at in-state tuition rates.

Advocates say the students are scared of being deported after the election of Republican Donald Trump as president. Trump has previously said he wanted a "deportation force" to remove immigrants living in the country illegally.

Organizers say more than 900 people have signed the letter.

The text of the letter reads as follows:  

November 15, 2016

Dear President Frank,

The University of New Mexico is a teaching and learning community defined and strengthened by the diversity and unity of all its members, including people of different ethnicities, class backgrounds, genders, sexual preferences, nationalities, and immigration status.  We share a commitment, as reflected in our UNM nondiscrimination policy, "to creating and maintaining a community in which students and employees can learn and work together . . . free from all forms of disrespectful conduct, intimidation, exploitation, and harassment."

The message that was sent to the campus on November 10, 2016 noted that “[t]he University of New Mexico is a diverse campus, and many of our students are feeling afraid and unsafe.” We, the undersigned members of the University of New Mexico community, believe that it is critically important to reiterate the sentiment embodied in the UNM nondiscrimination policy and take actions to protect the safety and well-being of all members of the UNM community.

While we sincerely appreciate the aforementioned campus-wide message and its emphasis on compassion, respect, and unity, we believe that a specific and emphatic statement about offering support and protection for vulnerable students is warranted—including and particularly for those individuals who face heightened risk due to their immigration status.

Given the conduct and outcome of the recent Presidential contest, including repeated instances of derisive and inflammatory language directed against ethnic, LGBTQIA+, religious, women, people of color and other marginalized communities, we are concerned that members of our community are at heightened risk of harassment and discrimination. We condemn discrimination, marginalization, and violence against any community member.

We—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community of UNM—call on you to stand in solidarity with those whose rights, safety, and dignity are under attack. Many others in government and public education have expressed their support in clear terms. University of California Chancellor Janet Napolitano stated that UC "remain[s] absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance."

We would like to inquire about the concrete ways in which UNM will provide for the safety and security of students, faculty, and staff who may lose legal protections for their immigration status or face other serious threats and forms of discrimination. These include UNM students who have current legal protection from deportation under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and also those who do not qualify for DACA or any immigration relief, but are UNM students. With the inauguration of the new administration in January, we anticipate that protections afforded under DACA, which is an executive action established by the Obama Administration, will end and place undocumented students and families—who, since the election, are even more fearful for their safety—in a delicate situation.

A Department of Homeland Security memo issued on October 24, 2011 indicates that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are subject to certain restrictions upon entering college campuses, and should avoid targeting high school and college students on those campuses. This memo is available at the following link: https://www.ice.gov/doclib/ero-outreach/pdf/10029.2-policy.pdf

Consistent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy indicated in its October 24, 2011 memo, UNM is designated as a "sensitive location" and ICE must refrain from entering its campus for the purpose of immigration enforcement actions, except under extraordinary circumstances. UNM understands that the 2011 ICE policy of presumptive non-entry applies to educational and religious institutions, hospitals, and sites of public demonstrations as well. This policy puts the university in a unique position, which it should use to protect undocumented community members from immigration enforcement. It is the duty of this university to ensure that it remains a place that actively protects the rights and safety of ALL members of the UNM community. To borrow the language of the University, "Let’s protect the pack."

We respectfully suggest that the University be committed to protecting members of its community from unfair deportation, investigation, or other forms of intimidation. In addition, as we envision a safe future for our campus community, our campus must not exclude students from other local campuses, members of our city, and the broader community.

We look forward to a timely response to our letter. We are currently organizing an event to take place on Friday, December 2.

As of 11:26 a.m. Friday, the letter had 995 signatures.

Credits

KOB.com Web Staff and The Associated Press

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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