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Immigration fight could spark new civil rights era, Cornell professor tells journalists

PHILADELPHIA — Future decisions by the Trump administration on immigration enforcement could signal the next civil rights movement, a Cornell Law School professor told journalists Friday at an Education Writers Association seminar.

“I think that, to the extent the new administration tries to ratchet up immigration enforcement generally and perhaps terminates DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), that will activate a lot of people on campuses and elsewhere,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, who served as a panelist during “‘Sanctuary Campuses’ and Undocumented Students in Higher Ed” at the University of Pennsylvania.

“If you look back, a lot of changes were made through student activism … on campuses,” said Yale-Loehr, who’s also a practicing immigration lawyer. “It really did a lot to motivate the public to accept new changes.”

Yale-Loehr believes more than 30 campuses have signed some sort of resolution for sanctuary campuses, but he said the number remains a “moving target.”

Most campuses are trying to find the proper balancing point, he said, seeing as a sanctuary campus has no legal definition. Immigration enforcement officials can come onto a college campus if they have a properly documented administrative warrant.

A contingent of UNLV students late last year asked President Len Jessup to name the campus a sanctuary, joining a movement of other students across the country. Meanwhile, another group — the UNLV Campus Conservatives — began a petition asking for the university to comply with federal law.

“Some of these sanctuary resolutions try to walk that fine line, to say that we will not affirmatively volunteer information to the government about our students’ immigration status, except to the extent we are required to under federal law,” Yale-Loehr said.

Daisy Romero, a University of Pennsylvania student who is in the DACA program and was on Friday’s panel, agrees that there are limitations to what a university can do. However, she believes it’s crucial for her, and others, to communicate with the administration to ensure it’s working internally to support students.

If DACA is revoked, Romero said she hopes the university offers students who live in border towns, who may not be able to fly back home, the chance to live on campus throughout the year.

“Certainly, colleges are worried about what they can do and what they can’t do,” Yale-Loehr said, “and they’re all trying to figure out where is the proper balancing point.”

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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