Political science students bring sanctuary movement to DePaul


@depaulsanctuary on Instagram

DePaul Sanctuary is working towards making the university a sanctuary campus.

A group of DePaul students recently started a sanctuary organization on campus, which has gained more than 150 followers on Instagram in a matter of weeks. Now, they’re pushing forward plans for a more inclusive campus.   

When organizers Gurvir Gill, Chloe Brougham and Sarah Stolpe met in a political science honors seminar, they recognized a need for a sanctuary movement at DePaul. 

The Sanctuary Movement began in the 1980s to provide refuge to immigrants who were denied legal protections in the United States. Inspired by the late 20th century movement and ongoing efforts of churches and schools to create safe spaces for immigrants, Gill, Brougham, Stolpe and classmates felt motivated to keep up the momentum with the tools they acquired during their winter quarter course. Under the mentorship of professor Kathleen Arnold, the class recently founded an organization called DePaul Sanctuary.

Gill, a sophomore and organization officer said, “I was motivated for one, by the passion and fervor that Dr. Arnold showed for the movement, and that in turn, I think mobilized a lot of the students in the class to support and engage in the organization.” 

“After learning the way that it is possible to help and provide safety for immigrants, especially in the current incredibly discriminatory environment, it was only natural that we were motivated to create change and add to sanctuary in any way possible,” Gill said.


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Creating change could look like a variety of things. Brougham, now an alum who graduated after winter quarter, spoke of their dream for a world where the DePaul Sanctuary logo is turned into a sticker so that once students return to campus, people can put it in their windows and offices to visibly indicate, “This is a sanctuary space.” 

For years, some DePaul students and faculty have criticized the administration’s refusal to become a sanctuary campus. On Sept. 11, 2017, after the rescindment of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the DePaul Socialists published a statement in the DePaulia. 

“DePaul’s previous president, Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., was rightfully criticized in the pages of The DePaulia for saying that DePaul ‘remains unwavering in our support for undocumented students’ without taking concrete actions to stand up to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents or provide real sanctuary to vulnerable students,” the statement read.

“We believe that a true commitment to undocumented students would stand in the tradition of the sanctuary movement, which goes back to the ’80s. Standing in the spirit of this movement would necessitate that DePaul house undocumented people fearing deportation in the university church and adjacent Vincentian living spaces…”

Reacting to the DePaul Socialists’ statement, Brougham said, “The reference to the 1980s is the faith-based wing of the sanctuary movement, and a lot of it has to do with this idea of sensitive places like churches and hospitals — and for a while schools, but not so much anymore — are supposed to be these sensitive places that ICE won’t go into.”

“We fall in line of sanctuary and center undocumented students but also focus on communities that are overpoliced and queer citizens who don’t have rights,” Brougham added. In order to make an impact, DePaul Sanctuary’s founders hope to expand as much as possible by engaging with students, staff, faculty and the broader DePaul community.

“Many members of our original class are graduating this year but hope to stay involved,” said Stolpe, an economics and political science major who plans to graduate in June.

Additionally, Stolpe said that the group is hoping to grant internship credit for members devoting at least 10 hours a week to the group. Regardless of membership status, anyone may attend general meetings and events, some of which may take place during spring quarter. Interested students can check DeHub to stay up to date.

Going forward, Stolpe sees a potential to create change, based on the lessons learned from her group. 

“Everyone involved brought unique skills, knowledge and connections to truly combat detention, deportation and over-policing,” she said.

“I hope that we can expand and grow as much as possible,” Gill said. “There is strength in numbers, and I believe that if we can prove to people that DePaul Sanctuary is something that is needed and desired on campus, our impact will be much larger.”

As far as future projects, DePaul Sanctuary President Dilpreet Kaur reported that they will be working to make their Safety Plan more accessible by translating it to a variety of languages as well as continuing to share events and resources on their Instagram. 

Kaur stated that other potential plans include creating a “how to be a good ally” workshop and infographic, “an updated list of viable information and resources,” and a coalition with other universities or organizations in the Chicagoland area.