The SGA referendum proposed by the Undocumented Vincentians and Allies (UVA) to create a scholarship fund for undocumented students to attend DePaul University has passed.
According to Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latina, immigrants pay close to $12 billion a year in taxes. Yet, undocumented students are ineligible for federal college funding as well as many grants, jobs and loan programs. On top of that, they face xenophobic harassment and the constant threat of Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) violence.
The “yes” vote demonstrates a strong message of solidarity with undocumented students, showing that DePaul’s community rejects the racist, divisive politics of Trump’s administration and its supporters on campus.
Sending such a message, in the context of an escalation on ICE’s part—from a record number of deportations under Obama to the vicious campaign of repression and deportation under Trump—is an important step towards building a movement on and off campus capable of winning further-reaching demands in defense of immigrants.
Since last November’s inauguration, individuals and organizations on campus have proposed many ideas about how to respond to the Trump administration’s attacks: from defending and expanding Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city to pushing the DePaul administration to do more to support and defend undocumented students.
Despite fruitful discussion and the many ideas that have been presented to connect individuals with organizations doing important work on and off campus, little consensus has emerged on what immediate actions to take, and how to unite various campus organizations behind a common strategy for supporting and defending undocumented students. In this context, UVA deserves immense praise for their bold scholarship initiative.
The urgency of the moment raises questions of strategy which deserve frank discussion. We should be asking why this initiative is even necessary at a university which purports to stand for social justice and Vincentian values. The appointment of the “Formalized Point-of-Contact for Undocumented Students” is a step, but we should question why DePaul is unwilling to move more funding towards undocumented student needs.
We should ask why scholarships should be funded by an increased student activities fee at a university with a $420 million endowment. We should think of DePaul’s much-criticized Wintrust arena project, with its price tag of $175 million, and whether those funds might have been better allocated towards helping decrease tuition, which has risen more than 400 percent in the last 35 years, according to Socialist Worker.
For these reasons, DePaul Socialists have argued that it would be useful to pair UVA’s referendum with demands placed on the DePaul administration. Given DePaul’s endowment and alleged commitment to social justice, asking dollar-for-dollar matching of funds raised via the activities fee seems too modest. To start why not ask that DePaul commit to providing $100 for every $1 raised via increases to the student activities fee. Without such an act, the administration demonstrates unwillingness to match the student body’s desire to show solidarity with undocumented students.
This in our view only skims the surface of demands that ought to be placed on the administration. We should demand that the administration deny ICE agents entry to campus. Beyond basic defensive necessities, we should demand the administration expand access to health care services and housing for undocumented and working class students.
Raising demands like these and organizing to pressure the administration into accepting them presents other ways students can demonstrate a practical commitment to acting in solidarity with immigrants.
Students from many organizations and backgrounds should come together to form such an organization on campus —providing an avenue for action even for those not inclined to trust the administration’s promises in response to demands from students.
1,684 votes for UVA’s initiative shows that it is possible for individuals who support undocumented students to unite in action across a diversity of political perspectives and persuasions. Imagine what we could accomplish together by asking and organizing for more.