Students organize walkout to make UNT sanctuary campus; Smatresk says no

Students organize walkout to make UNT sanctuary campus; Smatresk says no

Students organize walkout to make UNT sanctuary campus; Smatresk says no
December 01
15:34 2016

By Julia Falcon and Kyle Martin 

About 200 students walked out of class Thursday afternoon, calling for UNT to become a sanctuary campus after a petition gained over 1,000 signatures.

“People are scared,” Misaki Collins, a political science sophomore, said. “That’s really why we’re all out here.”

UNT students were joined by TWU students calling for their campuses to allow undocumented immigrants to stay and finish their education without fear of deportation. President-elect Donald Trump expressed throughout his campaign and in recent weeks his plan to deport more than 3 million illegal immigrants with criminal records.

He has also staunchly opposed sanctuary cities and campuses and vowed to cut federal funding to them. Student-protesters also focused on Trump’s plan to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, also known as DACA.

Students walk around the Denton Square holding signs and chanting in solidarity to peacefully protest Trump's decision to end the DACA program. Paulina De Alva

Students walk around the Denton Square holding signs and chanting in solidarity to peacefully protest Trump’s decision to end the DACA program. Paulina De Alva

President Smatresk addressed the walkout and said the question of making UNT a sanctuary campus is “not on the table.”

“It’s safe to say that I don’t support designating [UNT] as a sanctuary campus,” Smatresk said. “We follow the law at UNT. The question is ‘are we doing all we need for our students.'”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted Sunday vowing to ban sanctuary cities. He also tweeted Thursday vowing to cut funding for any state campus that establishes sanctuary status.

Political science junior Destiny Lambert attended the walkout because she wants to help make the campus safe for everyone.

“I don’t want anyone to be scared to be here,” Lambert said. “It’s not a safe place everywhere, and this is the place you’re going to school and paying tuition for. The people who wrote the petition really want to help everyone.”

More than a decade ago sympathy for undocumented immigrants was not as loud as its opposition on the UNT campus.

In the Jan. 27, 2005 edition of the Daily, UNT’s Young Conservatives of Texas chapter organized the “Capture the Illegal Immigrant Game.” Three Young Conservatives walked around campus in orange t-shirts with the words “Illegal Immigrant” on the front and “catch me if u can” on the back for the game. The game’s aim was to show the organization’s opposition of then-president George W. Bush’s temporary worker plan.

Collins said that this demonstration and the show of solidarity with her undocumented colleagues and peers is important for the university to address. She is a member of SGA, an Eagle Ambassador and president of the UNT Eagle Angels and marched with her peers in protest.

“Up, up with education. Down, down with deportation,” protesters chanted, marching down Hickory Street towards the downtown square.

UNT alumna, Queen Janeta Montgomery, made her return to Denton to show her support for the petition.

“When I got the call last night, I went on my social media and got to work to raise awareness of what’s going on here,” Montgomery said. “I don’t tolerate any mess and I stand in solidarity for this.”

Finley Graves, the university provost and vice president of academic affairs, said that President Smatresk is planning a town hall meeting in January to address concerns in an open forum. The time and place is still to be announced. He also praised students’ use of their first amendment rights.

“Students are certainly welcome to express their opinions,” Graves said. “It’s a matter of freedom of speech.”

University officials have seen the petition, and UNT spokesperson Margarita Venegas said that students can reach out for help if they need it.

“There is a lot of demand in the petition for what we already have,” Venegas said. “We provide support to everyone, and we aren’t going to be relaying immigration information about students.”

To sign the petition or learn more, click here. 
Featured Image: Students chant at the gathering in UNT’s library mall. Students got together to petition their officials to declare UNT and TWU sanctuary campuses. Jennyfer Rodriguez

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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  1. Dr. Jim McHugh
    Dr. Jim McHugh December 21, 23:43

    With my degree from NT, I used to be proud. Now, it is an embarrassment. I happily had illegal immigrants in my home for years.

    Reply to this comment
  2. The Misfit
    The Misfit January 26, 22:10

    Yeah with a State, a now also a Government under full Republican Control I’m afraid that their is not much that can be done about this for the next two years. I admire the spirit but it would really do is make all of you look crude, narcissistic, and irrational to the right and thereby further re-justify their actions. Image is what really sells in this nation (and what was thereby what sold the nation to Trump), so I think it is better to wait for the rest of America to learn from Trump’s mistakes in order to promote your goals. Good things do come to those who wait

    Reply to this comment

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