PLNU advocates for undocumented students

In Community, Featured, Features, Latest News by Nicholas Kjeldgaard

 

PLNU President Bob Brower walked off the plane and onto campus to attend a discussion on President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and the travel ban. He was returning from a nine day trip to Washington D.C.

More than 80 students and faculty had gathered in the ARC on Thursday evening for a panel discussion, led by Dr. Caye Smith, the Vice President for Student Development, Dr. Jeffery Carr, Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, and Samuel Kwapong, the Director of Multicultural and International Student Services.

PLNU has dozens of students who could be at risk of future actions the Trump administration takes, as Kwapong explained, “One other thing that is good about PLNU is because we are a private school we can accept students from all kinds of backgrounds. We do have both DREAM act and DACA students here.”

While in the nation’s capital, Brower met with numerous education organizations, legislators and other political leaders. A large number of those discussions revolved around how to best protect students at universities from being impacted by any executive actions.

“Being in Washing D.C. this past week was kind of like being in the middle of this huge whirlpool,” said Brower. “Things are moving everywhere in all kinds of directions in a kind of chaos.”

After Linda Brower opened the discussion in prayer, President Brower took the floor to describe the situation as he knew it.

“What I heard from all our government people was that sense that there is this unpredictableness that has been introduced into how government works, and we are not sure how this will work out.”

He said he had met with many senators and representatives in the capital, including Senator Feinstein.

“I am not the expert on the inside,” said Brower. “Senator Feinstein introduced a bill into the senate to begin to address the Executive Order and her staff indicated their was a second bill coming. There was a sense in the legislators that we met with that this is a serious issue, this is unrepresentative of the hospitality that America is accustomed to providing.”

Brower also talked about the actions PLNU was taking, joining in on several statements from educational institutions, and drafting its own letters with Azusa Pacific University and Life Pacific University.

Those letters were sent to the President and Vice President on Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon.

Before leaving early to attend another meeting, Brower answered questions from several students concerned about the Trump Administration’s actions. He assured students that as a private school they are not required to provide a list of undocumented students to the Government, and PLNU would not do that without a subpoena or similar document, but legally cannot be a sanctuary campus.

“There has been discussion from the administration about pulling back federal funding from sanctuary cities,” said Brower. “Private campuses are prohibited by law from being a sanctuary campus.”

He also clarified he was unaware of any discussions about removing federal funding from universities for violating the executive order.

According to the Common Data Set for 2016-2017 PLNU has 35 international students, compared to 3,053 total undergraduate students. The number of DACA and DREAM act students was not available.

International students attending PLNU on F-1 visas go through a lengthy process to obtain legal status, and must prove an ability to pay their own way.

“It is our job to make sure their life is safe,” said Kwapong. “Some of you have studied abroad for one year, and they’re here for four years away from their families.”

Smith encouraged students interested in studying abroad, traveling or participating in a Loveworks trip to think about the implications of leaving the country, and discuss it with a staff member.

She also emphasized the commitment of PLNU to its students, and said there are many resources available to students regarding status, mental health and even said an immigration attorney might be brought to campus if needed.

While in D.C. President Brower and other leaders of educational institutions spoke with legislators and lobbied for a piece of “bridge legislation” to allow DREAMers and DACA students to stay at universities, even if the Obama era Executive Order is reversed.

“There wasn’t a lot of conversation about [DREAM act students], we talked about the various ways a student might be in our schools in an undocumented way,” said Brower. “Again, what we advocated for was in this bridge act, that the depth of that act would allow those students to remain.”

This act has not received much traction in past Congresses, but Brower said representatives from many colleges and universities had urged their congressional leaders to support it.

Students were urged to hold fast to Christian values and to live out their faith. “The worst thing that could happen in this time would be for America to wrap its arms around itself and give up its role as a place for people to come,” said Brower.

 

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