Late Thursday evening (October 27), UC San Diego was once again chalked and covered by anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, and Islamophobic rhetoric. Hateful messages such as “build a wall”, “stop illegals”, “stop radical Islam”, “stop bad hombres” and other threats, were used to target specific communities at UCSD. This is not the first time that this has happened on campus, and probably will not be the last – my question is, how will the UCSD administration act?
Our campus administration has a history of being reactionary, rather than proactive. For example, it took a series of racist anti-black events such as the Compton Cookout, and subsequent strong student mobilization by the Black Student Union during “Black Winter” of 2010 for administration to establish a Black Resource Center and a Raza Resource Centro (RRC), even though students had been demanding them for years. Although different in context, both events stem from a history of attacks students of color at UCSD have to face as a result of a xenophobic and racist campus climate that protects hate speech and refuses to acknowledge systemic oppression.
Earlier this year, UCSD was covered in anti-immigration rhetoric the night before Triton Day and Transfer Triton Day. The chalkings targeted undocumented immigrants, Latinx, Mexicans, Muslims, and the RRC. In response, leaders of the Movimiento Estudantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA) and Migrants Rights Awareness (MiRA) organized a protest and released a list of demands. A top priority is to make UCSD a sanctuary campus. Since administrators hold authority over the on-campus police department, this is a tangible solution to the chalking incidents. But what exactly is a sanctuary campus?
The idea of a sanctuary campus comes from legally established sanctuary city ordinances that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. What a sanctuary policy ultimately means is that UCSD would restrict local law enforcement, in this case UCPD, from collaborating with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) and regulate recruitment done on campus by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and I.C.E. agents.
These chalkings are based on the rhetoric of presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is infamous for saying what “he thinks.” To say an entire race, nationality, or religion is to blame for rape, drugs, and criminal activity is dangerous and absurd. These individuals, like Donald Trump, are misinformed, using racist rhetoric as their arguments. A Pew Research Center study shows undocumented immigrants have significantly lower crime rates than native-born people. Regardless of this fact, these communities – who are often fleeing violence from their home country, and seeking a better and safer home for their families – are targeted for incarceration and deportation.
The Department of Homeland Security – continuing murderous deportation campaigns that began under the supervision of current UC President Janet Napolitano – tears apart families by targeting the most vulnerable in their homes and communities. Earlier this year, the Obama administration carried out I.C.E. raids that resulted in the deportation of Central American children and women refugees. A student in North Carolina was arrested at a bus stop by I.C.E. officials on his way to school. In response to these unnecessary raids, school districts such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, have taken precautionary steps to protect their students and comfort parents that no deportation would occur in their grounds. Mirroring sanctuary city ordinances with strong safeguards for undocumented immigrants is a good first step to adopting a campus policy to make UCSD safer.
Actions on campus highlight the vulnerability to violence the undocumented population at UCSD has to go through everyday. Some assert it’s highly unlikely this would happen on a university campus. However, this has happened at UCSD and other California schools before. Back in 2008, a student’s dorm apartment was invaded and searched by I.C.E agents without a warrant . Another unfortunate example is from earlier this year, as Jose Alvarez was on his way to pick up his son from work, he was detained by CSU Long Beach officers and eventually deported. Furthermore, the chalkings outside the front door of the RRC suggests that the perpetrators were not only targeting the Latinx community, but also individuals that use the space as a home on campus. This is the reality the undocumented community wakes up to everyday: constant fear of being taken away from your family, friends, and your established daily life.
The chalkings remind undocumented folks how vulnerable they are on campus. It should also serve as a reminder to the individuals who are making decisions at UCSD. This is my fourth year and never have I seen the San Clemente border (45 miles north of campus) more active than this year, nor I.C.E. agents so close to campus. With our campus between borders, is UCSD administration waiting until one of their own gets deported? Must administration continue to be reactionary? UCSD students, staff, and families deserve better. Administrators, you can do better. Set a good precedent for other universities, protect your undocumented community, and make UC San Diego a sanctuary campus now!
If you are interested in having discussion around this issue, I invite you to attend an event Thursday, November 3, Experiences of the Migrant Community and the Importance of Sanctuary Campuses.
Nicolas Costa Monteiro is UC San Diego’s Campus Organizing Director and Chair of the Sanctuary UC Committee at the University of California Student Association.