Local officials and student groups at the University of Maryland are continuing to advocate for undocumented community members in the wake of President Trump’s executive order decreeing that “sanctuary cities,” which don’t cooperate with federal deportation efforts, will no longer be eligible to receive federal grants
The administration’s move is concerning, College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said, noting the city of College Park will continue to follow sanctuary policies set by Prince George’s County officials and police. The county is one of three jurisdictions in the state of Maryland with protocols in place to protect undocumented immigrants from prosecution by federal authorities.
“It worries me,” Wojahn said. “It distresses me that the Trump administration has decided as one of its first acts to step directly into the role that police are supposed to serve in the community and interfere with that.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said despite Trump’s order, the county has no intention to change its tune on the matter.
“We’re not changing,” said Baker in a Jan. 25 article for Washington’s WUSA9. “We’re not afraid of what [Trump] said, that he’s going to withhold funding, because we feel that we’re doing the right thing. We’re following the law, as long as we’re doing that, our policies will not change in Prince George’s County.”
Moving forward, Wojahn said he looks forward to engaging with the Trump administration as well as Maryland’s representatives and senators in order to protect the autonomy of “global communities” such as College Park.
Maryland lawmakers such as District 5 Rep. Steny Hoyer have already taken to social media in the past week to advocate for undocumented immigrants.
“I join @HispanicCaucus in standing with #Dreamers,” Hoyer wrote on Thursday. “Rescinding #DACA would split up families and hurt our economy. #HeretoStay.”
At this university, the executive order could also have far-reaching effects.
There are 113 undergraduate and graduate students at this university under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And while this university follows sanctuary campus policies, it is not formally considered a sanctuary campus.
In a Thursday email sent to the campus community, university President Wallace Loh called a sanctuary campus designation “unnecessary” — a comment that led to some backlash on social media.
“I think it’s interesting that the university has said publicly that it does not want to be declared a sanctuary campus,” Resident Hall Association President Steven Chen said. “But I think that at the end of the day, if our constituents feel that the designation is necessary and important … we’re going to continue to advocate for that.”
While no other Big Ten universities are formally considered sanctuary campuses, students at some Big Ten schools, including the University of Michigan and Northwestern University, and pushing for the designation.
Following Trump’s election Student Government Association, Graduate Student Government and University Senate all passed legislation supporting undocumented students. The RHA passed a resolution to explore the sanctuary campus designation. The SGA intends to propose legislation supporting a formal sanctuary campus designation within the next two weeks, and plans to also vote in favor of a University of Michigan bill supporting DACA at a Big Ten conference next month, said SGA President Katherine Swanson.
“I’ll do everything I can in the remainder of my term to protect [minority students], and if there’s something that I’m not doing that they want to see, I need to know that,” the senior government and politics major told The Diamondback in an interview last week. “My door is always open.”
Chen, a biology and individual studies major, said the RHA’s executive board will continue to weigh the benefits and consequences of such a designation.
“We understand that there are political and financial considerations as it regards to federal funding and things like that, but we also recognize that words matter, and what we call ourselves and how we show solidarity matters,” he said. He added that RHA is working with the Department of Resident Life to look into programming such as dialogue and surveys on the topic to assist undocumented students, as well as working to assess the opinions of residents on the issue.
Hall council presidents could help RHA achieve these goals, Chen said.
“One of our initiatives this year is to use the hall councils as a mechanism for advocacy,” he said. “So we’re going to see if we can incentivize or urge our hall council presidents and leader to develop programming around this issue, whether that’s facilitating a conversation or having a programmatic event that includes surveys about this issue,” he said.