No sanctuary for undocumented students at the University of Illinois.


Anti-Trump protesters in New York. Photo: Fred Klonsky

I often tell folks that because I grew up in California in the sixties there were a lot of diversions. I was diverted by most of them and so I dropped out of college in ’68.

A little over a decade later I returned. I enrolled at the University of Illinois at Chicago, then known as Circle Campus, drove a taxi cab, and studied art education at what was then called the College of Art, Architecture and Urban Planning.

I loved it. I loved it so much that after earning a degree in Art Education, I continued to study there while teaching. I earned my Masters with honors (not to brag) several years later and went crazy, applied to and was accepted into the doc program.

Once the doctoral course work was done, I was done.

There is a trend now for graduating high school students to take off a year before college. A “gap year,” they call it.

I had a “gap decade.”

Driving a taxi, a family at home and taking classes was tough. But Circle was and is an urban campus and  many of my classmates were struggling even more than me. Many of the students were foreign born. Smart, but struggling with English. Many undocumented.

The Latino Policy Forum, a Chicago-based advocacy group, estimates that there may be 1,500 Illinois college students who are undocumented in 2016.

I am disappointed to learn that my alma mater, the University of Illinois, has turned it’s back on undocumented students, refusing to declare the university a sanctuary university from Trump’s threats to round up undocumented immigrants.

“There’s just a lot of unknowns and a lot of speculation. But what we do know is that we don’t want to put our institutions and our people at risk of not complying with laws,” university spokesman Tom Hardy said.

We are talking about laws that target millions of families in the United States. The statement echoes another sorry and scary time in the not so distant past.

The university receives roughly $733 million annually in federal funding – about 13 percent of its $5.6 billion operating budget – that could be at risk if the university does not comply with immigration law, said Hardy.

Cities across America have declared themselves sanctuary cities in spite of threats to federal funds, including Chicago. They are refusing to cooperate with federal (anti-)immigration officials.

UIC and the other two state university campuses have taken a different and much more discouraging course of action.

2 Replies to “No sanctuary for undocumented students at the University of Illinois.”

  1. “We are talking about laws that target millions of families in the United States. The statement echoes another sorry and scary time in the not so distant past.”

    “A scary time in the not so distant past?” This haunts me as much as you. Where is the vigorous defense by all of us Americans and our institutions, particularly universities, of the imperative that unjust laws must be protested and, if necessary, defied, and fought until they’re changed? That was a constant moral lecture that we Americans once gave foreign countries that violated human rights. Not that we were ever that innocent, but we’ve done virtually nothing even to restore a measure of the innocence that we once thought we had. On the contrary, we’ve become worse since Bush II with waterboarding and other abuses like Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have somehow convinced ourselves since 9-11-2001 that we have the right to invade other countries and to torture those whom we suspect of “terrorism.” We now have President-elect Tweet Orangehair whose moral compass is nonexistent, seems to have serious personality disorders, and has the “bully pulpit” to incite his followers to violence. Who really wants to find out how badly he and his administration can abuse their powers? To prevent such a catastrophe, the entire country must defy and resist this man starting now. That resistance must certainly include our institutions of higher learning.

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