MSU students demand support for immigrants, sanctuary school status

By: - November 11, 2019 4:58 pm

Michigan State University Spartan Stadium | Susan J. Demas

Some Michigan State University students are demanding the administration declares it a sanctuary school and provide more support and resources for undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. 

On Friday, students rallied outside the university’s Hannah Administration building to bring awareness to immigration issues. The rally, hosted by student organization DreaMSU, was timed just days before Tuesday’s high-profile DACA case is set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case will decide the legality of the President Trump Administration’s rescission of DACA ー a program created by the former President Obama administration that allows undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States before they turned 16 to apply for temporary legal protections.

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Michigan is home to 5,350 DACA recipients. The average recipient in Michigan moved to the U.S. by age six, according to data from the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan policy institute.

“Michigan State University is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all, and that includes immigrants,” Emily Guerrant, an MSU spokesperson, said in response to the rally. “Many areas of MSU’s campus assist with these supports, including the Office of the Provost and the Office of Institutional Equity.”

Prior to the rally, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to the student organization in support of the cause. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at LCC, Oct. 10, 2019 | Nick Manes

“This is a wonderful opportunity to come together in support of the many immigrant students throughout the state and to collectively demonstrate the shared belief that Michigan should be an inclusive place for all,” Whitmer wrote. “It is crucial that we work together to build our campuses into an accepting and welcoming atmosphere for everyone, so every student can obtain the necessary education, resources, and support to thrive and grow into future leaders of the state.”

An analysis done by the University Leaders for Educational Access and Diversity Network ranked Michigan’s public universities based on accessibility for undocumented students. MSU was rated “least accessible” for admissions, financial aid and general support, and was rated “somewhat accessible” for tuition. 

The most accessible Michigan universities for undocumented students were Grand Valley State University, University of Michigan and Oakland University, which all rated “most accessible” in each of the four categories. 

In October, the MSU student government passed a bill that requires the university to give a two-week notice anytime U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were expected to be on campus. This bill came after ICE was spotted on campus to present during a class, but stirred panic for students on campus. 

MSU leaders joined more than 600 colleges and universities across the country in a letter to Congress regarding DACA and support for Dreamers in September. 

“As students return to campus for a new academic year, our institutions are keenly aware of the two-year anniversary of the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy,” the letter read. “We understand the Supreme Court will soon be considering DACA. But, regardless of the Court’s decision, legislative action will remain necessary. The issue should be solved on a permanent basis by Congress.”

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House in June passed legislation protecting Dreamers, but the legislation is stalled in the GOP-led U.S. Senate.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8.