Hundreds of people gathered on Yale’s cross campus on Wednesday as part of the national #SanctuaryCampus movement organized by Movimiento Cosecha. Students from over 130 universities across the United States walked out of class, in a call to administrators to make their campuses safe for undocumented migrants by limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The walkout at Yale was the result of a university-wide meeting at Yale Law School on Monday, which drew over 1,000 students, professors, activists, and administrators from across Yale and New Haven to address possible challenges after the presidential election.
Darryl Brackeen Jr, a New Haven Alder who started a petition to defend New Haven’s status as a Sanctuary City, announced to the crowd that Mayor Toni Harp had officially agreed to retain New Haven’s sanctuary status, but there was still work to be done.
This sentiment was echoed by John Jairo, a member of Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA) who has been fighting for the rights of undocumented migrants for years. Jairo reminded the crowd that deportation and the fight against deportation have always existed, even in New Haven. Deportations significantly increased under Obama, earning him the nickname “deporter-in-chief.” The ULA, a grassroots activist organization founded by Central American immigrants, played a significant role in reinstating 32 undocumented New Haven residents after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid in 2007. Citing recent deportations, Jairo noted that Mayor Toni Harp’s words lack action.
Among the speakers was Ramon Garibaldo Valdez, an undocumented first year Ph.D. in the Yale Political Science Department. Despite declaring that he was “undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic,” he spoke of the fearful reality he lives everyday, terrified that “I’ll get a call from my cousin asking why his parents haven’t picked him up.” The most poignant moment of Valdez’s speech was when he asked those with undocumented friends to raise their hands, and nearly everyone in the crowd did. “I need you to think of them, to think of me standing here,” he said, “and promise to fight for them.”
An email from Yale President Peter Salovey to the student body, sent an hour before the event, directly addressed student concerns about possible changes in immigration law. He affirmed the administration’s objective of ensuring “the safety and well-being of those on our campus, including our many international students.” He went on to write that steps had already been taken towards this goal and that he would continue to work to “assure that all Yale students can complete their degrees and go on to be successful and valued contributors to the nation and the world.”
At the end of the rally, Dax Crocker, a third year Masters student at the Divinity school, had a message for Trump supporters. “We love you,” he shouted into the megaphone. “We are not fighting against you. We are not fighting against people; we are fighting for our cause.” He went on to say, “we want to talk with you, to understand you. And we want you to understand us.”