Rutgers: We will protect undocumented immigrants on campus
NEW BRUNSWICK — Hours after students and faculty members circulated a petition to make Rutgers a "sanctuary campus," President Robert Barchi said the school will protect the privacy of undocumented immigrants attending the university.
Barchi released a statement Tuesday after many students raised concerns about their privacy and safety following the election of Donald Trump. The university president also said he expects those associated with Rutgers to protect the privacy and confidentiality of students and that information will not be provided unless it's required by law or a court order.
"Rutgers police do not inquire into nor record the immigration status of students or other persons unless a serious crime has been committed," Barchi said. "Rutgers University does not use E-verify for any purposes other than to comply with longstanding federal law regarding employment eligibility. Immigration status is not a factor in student housing decisions."
The petition, addressed to Barchi and other administrators, outlined 11 actions students believe Rutgers should take in order to protect the university's minorities and undocumented students on its campuses.
According to The Daily Targum, the petition was a collaborative effort that was authored primarily by Carlos Decena, chairman of the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies as well as a professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies.
The petition calls on Rutgers campus police and those who handle data regarding students to "refuse to cooperate with federal agents wishing to deport undocumented students." The petition covers all of the university's campuses including those in Newark and Camden, both of which have declared themselves "sanctuary cities," where undocumented immigrants are not reported by institutions such as hospitals and municipal agencies.
"You should be aware that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy characterizes colleges and universities, like Rutgers, as 'sensitive locations,' places where, in the normal course, enforcement actions should not occur unless extraordinary circumstances exist," Barchi wrote in his letter.
He said the university will "protect the rights of free expression and privacy that are afforded to all members of the Rutgers community" and that the school will "do everything in our power to protect the safety of our students and community."
Since the presidential election, students at Rutgers have staged protests denouncing President-Elect Donald Trump. On Friday, about 120 students marched along College Avenue chanting "no hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here" and "not my president," The Targum reported.
In his letter Tuesday, Barchi said students are owed respect and support as they express their opinions.
"No matter your political view, ethnicity, religious beliefs, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or nationality, you are first and foremost a Rutgers student, and you are owed our respect, our support, and our best efforts to keep you safe and secure as you express your opinions and pursue your studies," the university president said, adding that although "robust exchanges may not always be comfortable, but they must always be respectful."
Barchi said he expects any discussions to be "civil." He said the university "we will not tolerate hate speech, threats of physical harm or intimidation by anyone on any side of any discussion on our campuses."
Also, like many colleges and universities, Barchi said Rutgers students "who feel anxious or upset" in the wake of the election can seek counseling at student health centers on the Camden, Newark and New Brunswick campuses. In addition, The Rutgers Law School operates an Immigrant Rights Clinic which can be contacted to confidentially answers questions from undocumented students, Barchi said.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.
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