By Jacob Turnrose and Maureen Thaete | News Editor & Assistant News Editor

Saint Mary’s Community Members took part in last Wednesday’s rally against the DACA decision made by the Trump Administration. (Courtesy of Annaliese Martinez)

On September 6, starting at 1:00 p.m., students, faculty, and members of the administration gathered in the Dante Quad to protest the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program commonly referred to as DACA.  Since its establishment in 2012, the policy has protected 800,000 young people, including college students, from deportation.

At its peak, there were about 150 members of the Saint Mary’s community in the quad.  Several dressed in black and leaned over the railing on the second floor terrace of the library.   All were present to either speak out or listen to others’ opposition to the Trump Administration’s decision.

The protest was organized by the club presidents of Hermanas of Saint Mary’s, Ballet Folklórico Guadalupano, and La Hermandad.

Myrna Santiago, Professor of History, opened the rally by providing context for the DACA program and the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate it.

She began by stating that DACA was initiated through an executive order signed by President Obama, and she went on to explain the reasoning behind the program. “[He initiated DACA], in large part, in my humble opinion, to make us forget that he also deported the most  number of immigrants since the 1930’s,” she said. “We don’t want to leave Obama off the hook.”

“This [decision] was not about law enforcement,” she said. She also added that  the United States is a country that enforces laws very selectively. “Some people [see] the law used against them, a lot of other people are never touched by the law.” She brought up the 2008 economic recession as an example of when laws are applied selectively. “We know who caused the collapse of the American economy, we know their names, we know where they work. Do they get investigated?” she asked.

The decision, then, in Santiago’s words was “a political move” used by the Trump administration to “mobilize a percentage of the population, to blame the 2008 recession on [immigrants].”

Two hundred thousand DACA beneficiaries are in California.  Santiago stressed that “some of them are at Saint Mary’s.”

“One of my students has a brother who was already deported to Mexico,” she said. “He grew up in the states. He speaks no Spanish, like a good Chicano, and now he is in Mexico all by himself.”

“Just imagine what that must feel like,” she said. “If you can imagine that for a minute, that’s a good thing because I want us, as a community, to feel that pain… to realize that there are a lot of people on this campus who are very nervous.”

Several students spoke against a perceived lack of action on the part of Saint Mary’s College President, James Donahue, and his administration.

Emily Gagnebin ‘19  questioned Donahue’s commitment to upholding “Lasallian values” and promoting an “inclusive community,” stating that his inaction was ultimately allowing “danger and fear” to pervade the campus.

At 9:30 a.m., several hours before the rally, President Donahue sent an e-mail out to all students, faculty, and staff. “In wake of the [Trump] Administration’s decision,” he wrote, “I’d like to remind members of our community about Saint Mary’s commitment to protecting the rights of all students on campus.”

He has said that he has made plans to  consult our elected officials and legal counsel about “the constitutional protections institutions of higher education, and other organizations, have in their support of undocumented students.”

He will be meeting with Representative Mark DeSaulnier to “discuss how we can work together to further protect our undocumented students.”

In addition, Donahue promised to “uphold the privacy regulations that protect student information from disclosure, as outlined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),” and provide legal counsel to those concerned with the implications of the recent DACA decision.

He ended his email stating, “We must do everything we can to ensure Saint Mary’s maintains a safe and welcoming campus for each and every one of our community members.” Some responded specifically to President Donahue’s email. “An email is not enough,” said Barbara Ibarra ‘18, president of the Hermanas of Saint Mary’s. Like many others, she criticized Donahue for reaching out to the campus community only through email, calling him to “show up to these events” to prove his support.

Matthew Fitzgerald ‘19 encouraged the crowd to put pressure on the administration to make SaintMary’s a sanctuary school. “We need to have the policy to back up the attitude,” he said in reference to the “vague response” of Donahue’s email.

Fitzgerald, the President of the Young Democrats, did express approval of Donahue’s decision to meet with Representative Desaulnier. “I think it shows that he’s at least looking for a solution.” He added, “Hopefully it’s productive.”

Fitzgerald calls on Donahue to adopt a sanctuary policy. “Any comprehensive sanctuary policy needs to  [include a statement] that the school will not cooperate with law enforcement or immigration officials who’d want to deport our students,” he clarified.

Barbara Ibarra echoed Fitzgerald’s call. “If [Donahue] came out and said that [Saint Mary’s College] has a sanctuary campus, then people would feel more safe,” she said in a separate interview. “I think it’s important to understand that the President has a tough job,” said Fitzgerald. “He has to walk a line, he has to try and keep students happy, he has to try and keep donors and faculty and staff happy. I understand why he is cautious around this issue.”

“I think that a sanctuary policy could upset some donors to the college. There’s the whole issue of legality with becoming a sanctuary campus… federal funds could be in jeopardy,” said Fitzgerald. “I don’t think it’s that the president doesn’t care, I’m sure he does, it’s just a difficult thing. But this administration tends to drag their feet.

At the rally, a number of students used the open microphone as an opportunity to promote safe spaces around campus. These included the Mission and Ministry Center, CAPS, the Intercultural Center, the Lounge, Hermanas of Saint Mary’s, La Hermandad, and Ballet Folklórico Guadalupano.

Emily Lucot ‘18 stressed the importance of continuing the day’s conversation in those diversity-focused centers. “Support people who  do not have that voice, who do  not have that privilege.” Lucot said.

Other students, including Abigail Thompson ‘19, also emphasized the need for all members of the Saint Mary’s community to stand against aggressions. “We are united on this front against intolerance; we are intolerant against intolerance. Racism is your issue regardless of your identity,” Thompson said.

After 2 p.m., the rally came to a close. Particpants were invited to sign a banner reading “Defend DACA #heretostay” in support of DACA recipients across the nation.

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