More than 200 people gathered in the Rodey Theater on the University of New Mexico’s Main Campus on Friday, Sept. 8 for a Know Your Rights training.
Sponsored by the UNM Sanctuary Campus Working Group, the training was held in response to the recent decision made by President Donald Trump to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
“DACA itself was an executive action; it was not law,” said Eduardo Esquivel, education equity organizer for the New Mexico Dream Team and a biochemistry major at UNM. “We knew from the beginning that it was something up in the air — that is, wasn’t going to stay forever.”
Anyone with DACA benefits expiring before March 5, 2018 must apply for a two-year renewal by Oct. 5. 2017, Esquivel said.
UNM School of Law is offering free assistance from attorneys for students looking to renew their DACA paperwork.
“There (are) a lot of things that could happen in the coming months and the coming weeks,” Esquivel said. “I don’t want to be alarming, but I want to be realistic.”
UNM professors have taken a stance on the decision.
“We must be ready to step up in different ways and different capacities to protect and defend our students,” said Irene Vasquez, UNM professor and Chicana and Chicano Studies department chair. “Today we are beginning a discussion on these possibilities.”
The training showcased several speakers who talked about what individuals can do for undocumented UNM students.
“I came, because I wanted to get as much information as I can so that I can help my students or fellow graduate students or anyone that needs it,” said Tori Cárdenas, a graduate student and teaching assistant for the English department.
Rebekah Wolf, an attorney for the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, spoke about the rights of people who are undocumented and documented.
“I’m going to try to be very specific to a concrete question,” Wolf said. “What happens if ICE comes to UNM?”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have jurisdiction over all non-citizens, including permanent residents, Wolf said.
“ICE can walk up to anybody and say, ‘Where are your papers?’” she said. “Nowhere does it say you are required to answer the question.”
Wolf’s advice for everyone is to remain silent and request to speak to an attorney.
“To be clear, U.S. citizens don’t have to say (they’re) citizens either,” Wolf said. “It only works if U.S. citizens also say, ‘I’m not going to answer that question.’”
ICE needs a warrant to detain someone in a limited access space but not a public space, she said. A limited-access space is somewhere that requires identification or a key to enter.
In order to show support for undocumented students, some universities have enforced a sanctuary campus policy.
“Even if UNM doesn’t get to the point of implementing (a sanctuary campus policy), there are some great things that faculty can do,” Wolf said.
Staff and faculty are not required to assist ICE.
“If ICE officials come to an administration official and ask for a schedule of a student, there is no obligation to give them that information,” Wolf said. “ICE relies on consent.”
The faculty declared UNM a sanctuary campus through the Senate, but this has not yet been approved by the University, said Armando Bustamante, the student programs specialist at El Centro de la Raza.
If UNM is approved as a sanctuary campus, the UNM Police Department would not be allowed to enforce immigration law.
“The reality is that the UNMPD doesn’t do immigration law enforcement, but we want to make sure it’s spelled out and told clearly,” Bustamante said.
The staff council is working with the administration to see what can be done.
“The message we got was that we’re not going to declare (to be a sanctuary campus), because of fears of money and other reasons,” he said.
Wolf said she sees herself as both an attorney and a “social justice activist” who wants people to understand that the answer is going to come from a social movement, not the government.
“It is up to you and your actions to protect students at UNM; it is not going to be an institution, or the police, or the law,” Wolf said.
“We rely on the resilience and strength of our undocumented and documented students,” said Jennifer Moore, a professor of law at UNM.
“(The students) need to see us gathered in solidarity. They need to see our faces and know what is in our hearts,” Vasquez said. “We want to do everything possible to ensure their well being.”
Madison Spratto is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.