An unofficial map of locations of schools that students want designated as sanctuary campuses.

'WE are America!' Sanctuary Campus Protests Spread Nationwide

College students, professors, alumni and other leaders on campuses nationwide from at least 80 schools are standing in solidarity with one another and against President-elect Donald Trump and his anti-immigration policies.


“Things are really raw for a lot of students,” said Danny Siegel, president of the student government at UCLA, where about 1,500 protesters participated in a demonstration on Wednesday.

At the University of California at Davis, students were recorded chanting, “You are not America!” and “WE are America!”

And it’s not just students who are putting the pressure on officials. At many schools, professors are joining the movement and signing petitions as well. According to Siegel, UCLA administrators expressed their support to student leaders. And on Wednesday evening, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann joined an on-campus march with her students.

At Berkeley High School in California, students participated in a nationwide walkout on Wednesday. Charles Burress, a spokesman for the school, said school officials joined the protest and that the students would not be disciplined.

Protesters from schools of all sizes are calling on school officials to declare their campuses “sanctuary campuses.” While specific conditions vary by school, a “sanctuary campus” is generally regarded as one that publicly supports undocumented immigrants. The goal is for administrations to not follow strict deportation policies Trump has repeatedly threatened to put in place.

“Different campuses are doing different things,” explained Vera Parra, an organizer with Cosecha Movement. “Actions are not necessarily directed at school administration, but about supporting undocumented students on campuses and their fears about what can happen to them and their families under a Donald Trump administration.”

The Cosecha Movement, or Harvest Movement, is a group fighting for “permanent protection, dignity and respect for our undocumented immigrant community,” according to its website. Cosecha was named in honor of the many undocumented farmworkers and others that have contributed to America’s continued growth. It began as a small group of immigrants rights activiststhat called itself the Honesty Team, and almost three years later the movement is now spreading across the country, with “villages” (Cosecha’s term for its organizations) in Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, Minnesota, Arizona and California.

Cosecha’s ultimate goal is a general strike against Washington until the voices of immigrants are heard.

“The United States economy would collapse without immigrant labor and consumer power,” Cosecha states on its website. “The only way to demonstrate sufficient power as an immigrant community so that permanent protection can even be negotiated is to have a general strike of workers across sectors and students.”

Gilberto Rosas, an associate professor in the departments of anthropology and Latina/Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, co-authored his university’s petition, which calls for “an unequivocal, public declaration of our university’s support for and protection of undocumented people and their families on our campus.”

“Given what is on the horizon, the promise [by Trump] to deport up to three million people, not to mention the recent history of deportation and detention already occurring in the United States, there needs to be a clear message sent to our immigrant students that UIUC is going to be a sanctuary,” Rosas said.

Oberlin College has a petition of its own, “Make Oberlin a Sanctuary Campus.” Shelley Lee, an associate professor of history and comparative American studies at the college, co-authored the letter, which calls on the school “to stand with other colleges and universities and investigate how to make Oberlin a sanctuary campus that will protect our community members from intimidation, unfair investigation, and deportation.”

“We wanted to take a moral stand on this issue very quickly and to urge the administration to take the steps to make a meaningful institutional response to this very uncertain situation in which very vulnerable members of our college and university community could potentially be targeted,” Lee said.

Earlier in the week, Nicole Fabricant, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Towson University, said the movement can hopefully serve as a learning experience.

“There’s an education that needs to happen here on campus,” she said.

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