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University refuses to say if it would intervene if students ‘blockaded’ dorm against federal agents

‘We never engage in hypotheticals’

A university is refusing to say whether or not it would intervene if students formed a “blockade” against federal immigration officials, with a spokesman saying only that the school would “respond appropriately” in the event of such a standoff.

The possibility of a theoretical altercation between students and federal agents was raised when a group of activists at the University of California, Berkeley recently petitioned the student government to convert a campus building to a “sanctuary” for students in the country illegally. The students suggested forming “blockades” in the building to “defend” against federal immigration agents.

That entreaty took place on Sept. 25, when six students and community members representing the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary attended a meeting of the Associated Students of the University of California, the student government at UC-Berkeley. The Daily Californian reported that during the public comment portion of the meeting, the activists, who style themselves as BAMN, presented the governing body with a petition of over 1,000 signatures and demands for more action to defend and protect illegal immigrant students on Berkeley’s campus.

Designating Eshleman Hall a sanctuary would have “no legal standing,” activist Stephanie Gutierrez conceded. Rather, the plan would require students to work in shifts to blockade the building from any U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers looking to enforce United States immigration laws on the campus.

Gutierrez told the student senators that Eshleman Hall “is owned by the ASUC student government, so it is within their means to make it (a sanctuary).”

Spokesman disputes activist claims, dodges question about blockade

Reached for comment via email, campus spokesman Dan Mogulof pointed out that the student government is “legally autonomous and independent from the university. As a result, the student government and its members speak only for themselves and do not represent the views of the campus administration one way or the other.”

“As far as Eshleman Hall goes, the buildings is owned and operated by the campus. The ASUC and the Graduate Assembly can assign space in parts of the Student Union, but the actual operation of the building is carried out by the campus,” Mogulof said.

“Beyond that, the ASUC’s authority to assign space to student groups is subject to general campus policy, which limits the use of campus buildings by non-affiliates (people who are not employees or students),” he added.

Asked how the university would respond if students blockaded the building against federal immigration officials, Mogulof demurred, refusing to say whether or not the school would intervene in the altercation.

“We never engage in hypotheticals. what we do do is well to respond appropriately in every instance within the context of the law,” he said.

Student government rejected demands

The College Fix reached out to Gutierrez and the student government via email. Student government spokesman Bryan Huang declined comment on the matter, while Gutierrez did not respond to multiple emails.

At the meeting the executive vice president of the governing body rejected the student demands to designate the building a sanctuary, claiming it needed to be a “student space” and that Berkeley’s present campus-wide sanctuary designation was already sufficient.

In September of 2017, the University of California’s president, Janet Napolitano, affirmed that the school system would not actively investigate the immigration status of its students, nor release student immigration information absent a court order. Napolitano in that statement declared “UC’s vigorous support for all our undocumented students and staff.”

‘Stop I.C.E. terror’

An online petition started by BAMN similarly demands the government establish the sanctuary building, claiming that doing so would make Berkeley’s the first “sanctuary student government” in the country.

“We must use the UC System’s status as a sanctuary to build the kind of actions that can make clear we stand with immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, and against Trump’s attacks on immigrants, both in our communities and at the border; that we stand firmly against Trump’s racist border wall, and proudly uphold the promise of freedom written on the Statue of Liberty,” the petition declares.

It calls on community members to “mobilize and tak[e] action to stop I.C.E. terror: defend our friends, family, neighbors, classmates, and co-workers against I.C.E. raids and deportations.”

The petition boasts of the prior activism of the Berkeley community in the face of federal agents.

“When ICE came to Berkeley last year, Berkeley students and the community mobilized in defense of the immigrant families who were terrorized by the ICE arrest in their building,” the petition declares.

“UC Berkeley and [the student government] must work diligently to protect the first targets of the Trump regime who are likely to be immigrants for whom the government already has records,” it adds.

Less than 150 signatures were attached to the petition as of Sunday afternoon.

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About the Author
Thomas Curry -- Catholic University of America