Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sanctuary Campus an Idyll of Illogic

You've heard of "sanctuary cities."

Now, apparently, comes the "sanctuary campus."

It's a movement by students at universities across the United States that encourages institutions of higher learning to provide consequence-free zones for anyone on campus - student, staffer, educator - who is in the country illegally.

Tomorrow, reportedly, a mass walkout is being planned at several universities here in north Texas, including the University of Arlington, Southern Methodist University, the University of North Texas, and Texas Woman's University.  The walkout is aimed at drawing public awareness to the need for sanctuary campuses.

According to organizers of this movement here, the need for sanctuary campuses stems directly from Donald Trump's surprise election as the next president of the United States.  During his campaign, Trump repeatedly promised his supporters that he would expatriate people who are in this country illegally.  Then there was his goofy bluster about building a wall between the United States and Mexico, and somehow forcing Mexico to pay for it.  He recklessly maligned Mexicans as rapists, and cavalierly mocked Hispanics in general.

Indeed, this election was a sordid affair on many levels.  And many people in this country have taken to the streets, marching in angry protest over its results.  And many of those marchers and protesters have been young, idealistic, and impressionable (and easily manipulable) college students.

We've heard the stories of professors giving their students a walk (free pass to not attend classes) to mourn the outcome of the presidential election.  We've heard of professors rescheduling exams, or providing counseling information, so that their grief-stricken students have ways of responding to Trump's win.  Many educators and students alike have betrayed an odd misunderstanding of history and governance with their calls for the Electoral College to be abolished.  They've made a spectacle of themselves, marching to protest no apparent human rights violations, or advocating for a change to the Electoral College that would cause more political disarray than Trump's win could.

Yet one of the most puzzling aspects of Trump's win is the vitriol it has stoked amongst some Hispanics against crucial notions of national sovereignty and the rule of law.  Perhaps this vitriol - they say it's fear, but we all know better - has become more potent to advocates of illegal immigration now that somebody as quixotic and bombastic as Trump will be entering the White House.  America hasn't had a president as untested, untrained, ill-tempered, impulsive, and unapologetically petulant as Trump in quite a while.  Nobody is sure what he will try to do.

What is also unclear is the extent to which schools like the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington can adopt any of the principles of sanctuary campuses.  These two schools are state-run and state-funded, meaning that their control ultimately lies under Texas governor Greg Abbott, an ardent opponent of sanctuary cities.  Which makes it hardly likely that he would be amenable to sanctuary campuses, right?

Yet another puzzlement as to the need for sanctuary campuses regards the strict privacy rules already governing any student's stay at Texas universities, whether public or private.  About the only information school administrators in Texas can release involves whether or not a person is enrolled.  Students can even opt-out of allowing that bit of information to be released, if they so desire.  So the specter of immigration officials sweeping onto a college campus and rounding up students in this country illegally seems remote at best.  Unless advocates of illegal immigration suspect Trump can change the laws to allow such sweeps.

All this continues to unfold, of course, under our country's already bleak tableau of an immigration policy in tatters.  Years and years of bickering over our immigration laws have created a system that is overburdened by demand and underfunded by a cheapskate electorate.  Political partisanship attempts to depict emigres to our nation as either desperate or devious, yet the real stories of why real people want to come here without the proper authorization tend to be far more individualized and complicated than any political party wants to acknowledge.  Then there's the whole saga of anchor babies, separating families, employment and wages, refugees, human trafficking, and possible terrorism.  It's become easier for legal Americans to either shrug their shoulders and say, "let them all in," or throw out their arms and, pointing southward, say "they all need to go back where they came from."

It doesn't help that our mainstream media tends to conveniently drop the "illegal" part of "illegal immigration" from the terminology.  Or that our right-wing media tends to forget that "undocumented" immigrants may actually have legal permission to be here while their paperwork situation is sorted out - a process that takes years, since taxpayers don't want to fully fund our immigration bureaucracy.

With all that is confusing about immigration and illegal immigration, perhaps it's no surprise that college students would be some of the most ardent purveyors of misinformation and inaccuracies on the subject.  After all, they're pretty naive when it comes to the complexities of real life.  A student at the University of North Texas wrote a letter for his fellow students to copy and send to university officials, petitioning for their university to become a sanctuary campus.  And it reeks of naivete.

So let's work through this student's letter, shall we?  After all, correcting errors and misconceptions is a big part of the college experience, right?  And since life is one big educational process, couldn't this letter be part of the instructional preparation a college student should appreciate as they move towards becoming a productive citizen?

Yeah, well, let's go through this exercise anyway.  The corrections are in bolded text:

In the wake of the racially charged and divisive election the faculty, staff, and students of University of North Texas have come together to demand that our university take action and declare itself a sanctuary university. We are not alone in our demands; public universities and private colleges across the country are demanding that their campuses become sanctuaries for students, faculty, and staff who are undocumented, marginalized, and/or at risk.  (First, the term "undocumented" is used in error, since it doesn't necessarily mean the person is here illegally.  Second, the term "marginalized" could refer to somebody who has broken any law, but would students want a convicted rapist running around their campus, for example, claiming they can because it's a sanctuary?  Third, the only people who would be "at risk" would be people who have broken the law... and the United States Constitution does not make any provisions for lawbreakers except for due process.  And isn't due process one of the benefits anybody in the USA should expect?  If we don't have due process for only a certain set of people, who else really should expect it?)

Not only is UNT mobilizing for its own sanctuary campus, but we have built a bridge between the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University as we organize this movement and demand these rights together, as one. Without our demands being met, the University of North Texas will be turning their backs on every person who is marginalized and paying tuition. This would include potential students who will be prevented from gaining access to an education because of their documentation status as well as every faculty and staff member contributing their labor to the education of our future.  (Again, the term "marginalized" is problematic here.  Supposedly somebody who's an English major wrote this.  Not sure the university is getting a strong endorsement of its educational merits with this one.  And threatening the administrators with the lack of funds coming from students being deprived from attending because they're in the country illegally is farcical; it's like warning that a bank robber being sent to jail won't be able to pay to attend... even though online classes could be taken from any country with an Internet connection.)

Our demands align with the UNT’s Core Values and Four Bold Goals. Goal One states that the University will “foster an environment of [...] strong support systems to ensure that more students stay in school, engage in service and campus life, and graduate on time”. Making UNT a sanctuary campus will ensure that those students who are undocumented and/or students who face a daily risk remain in school safely and are able to participate in campus life. Goal Three aims for our university to “become a national leader among universities in student support [and] employee relations”. Making our campus a sanctuary supports its students and employees while they contribute through tuition payments and their labor.  (... regardless of their legal status...?  This student needs to take Logic 101 to understand why this entire paragraph is riddled with fallacies.)

This action will place the University of North Texas in solidarity with institutions of higher education across the nation who have declared themselves a sanctuary campus. Prime examples are Reed College, Columbia, Portland State, and all schools within the California State school system. University of North Texas will be breaking barriers for Texas Universities wishing to become sanctuary campuses by taking the initiative to defend and protect their students, faculty, and staff.  (Wow - defend and protect?  From consequences of the behaviors of students, faculty, and staff who've not abided by the law?  What's next?  Protecting the rapists, drunk drivers, etcetera, etcetera?  If you want to change the immigration laws, then change the immigration laws.  Trying to somehow codify the arbitrary protection of certain people who break certain laws is hardly sound civic judgment.)

- Dear Student:  With apologies for the snide tone of your professor's corrections; but even this is for instructional purposes.  You see, for your petition to be taken seriously, it has to argue on the basis of the merits, not on aspirations based on the troublesome logic of ignoring sovereignty laws.  For example, what are the immigration laws of any Central American and South American country?  I understand you are upset with the way illegal immigration is being handled in the United States, but asking governmental authorities to pretend that certain laws don't exist defies the type of government immigrants supposedly come here to enjoy.

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