Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A new beginning: Protecting and embracing non-citizen Spartans with MSU policy

September 22, 2022
<p>A supporter holds a sign at DreaMSU&#x27;s rally. DreaMSU had a rally in front of the Hannah Administration Building in support of immigrant students on April 8, 2022.</p>

A supporter holds a sign at DreaMSU's rally. DreaMSU had a rally in front of the Hannah Administration Building in support of immigrant students on April 8, 2022.

Photo by Sheldon Krause | The State News

A bill that would declare MSU a sanctuary campus is to be proposed at a future Associated Students of Michigan State University general assembly meeting once it gains ample support. The bill would provide better aid and protection to students of undocumented or dreamer status or who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. 

“With every definition of a sanctuary campus, there are four main ideas,” Asian Pacific American Student Organization representative Connor Le said. "Campus cannot share student information with immigration authorities, they restrict access to campus from immigration authorities, they prohibit collaboration with these authorities on campus and provide resources for students and families."

Le wrote the bill after the East Lansing City Council was advised this summer to declare itself a sanctuary city.

“Currently MSU has the capacity to become a sanctuary campus and they haven’t yet,” Le said. “They have the resources already and they’re just not declaring that for some reason.”

Vice president of DreaMSU and ASMSU vice president for internal administration Carl Austin Miller Grondin said MSU has one of the lowest scores in the state when it comes to treatment of dreamer and DACA students.

The university provides some general resources for non-U.S. citizen students and families through support services like the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions and DreaMSU, a student advocacy organization. Le said declaring sanctuary status would emphasize MSU’s promise to protect non-citizen students from immigration officials and push the university to provide better financial aid and scholarships.

Currently, financial aid is limited for non-citizen students because a social security number is required to apply for scholarships. Additionally, the university’s lack of a designated staff member to support undocumented students demonstrates a lack of acknowledgment.

“When these students feel represented, they feel safe to participate," DreaMSU President Raquel Acosta said. “We need to go beyond that now and really make a conducive learning environment to ensure the retention of these students as well, not just making sure that these students are filling a diversity number.”

However, Acosta said it is not enough to provide resources to undocumented students without the official distinction of being a sanctuary campus.

“From my understanding, the main reason why we have yet to consider ourselves a sanctuary campus is due to power politics,” Grondin said.

The city of Lansing reversed its sanctuary status in 2017 to preserve federal funding and Grondin said a similar situation could occur if the sanctuary bill passes on campus because of MSU’s proximity to state legislators.

“It is of the utmost importance that we have a sanctuary here for students. It’s been clearly established that the city cannot do that,” said Acosta. “Having this be explicitly stated in MSU policy in terms of community would be huge for student support. It would also open a lot of doors for other resources. Whether it’s symbolically, but also literally, MSU will become a safe space for students who are undocumented.”

Grondin said this bill would be just the beginning of positive change on campus.

“Passing this bill would be the beginning of establishing normalities that DACA students have never experienced before while on campus,” Grondin said. “From a DreaMSU perspective, as well as being a student advocate outside of Dream, I believe that this is only the beginning of what can be accomplished, not only for DACA students, but every single student on campus.”

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