Rally seeks to designate IU as a sanctuary campus
IU student Willy Palomo stood ready with an orange envelope in his hand.
He directed people to follow him into Bryan Hall to deliver the envelope and its contents. He encouraged those who did not follow to keep chanting.
He cautioned that those who followed must be silent because disrupting the administrators who work in Bryan Hall could risk their funding.
“We are not going to disrupt the work that people are doing in that building, we are going to help them do that work,” Palomo said.
Around 40 trailed Palomo on the short walk from the Sample Gates to Bryan Hall. Leading the group up the stairs, Palomo prepared to hand the envelope to Provost Lauren Robel and President Michael McRobbie and assert the UndocuHoosier Alliance’s demands.
Their demands are two-fold. One, the alliance wants McRobbie and Robel to meet with undocumented students and the UndocuHoosier Alliance by Nov. 29 to discuss how they will stand by their students when Donald Trump takes office.
Two, the alliance wants McRobbie and Robel to present a plan by Dec. 12 that allocates a budget and staff to support undocumented students.
Palomo climbed on top of a bench outside Robel’s office, raising a finger to his lips to silence the crowd. He opened the door to Robel’s office and asked to speak with her.
The secretary said Robel was out of the office. Palomo handed the envelope to the secretary. The same happened in McRobbie’s office.
The alliance’s move to deliver the demands comes as the culmination of their work in the past week.
The election of Trump, who has promised to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, has forced the group into action working for the undocumented students on campus.
UndocuHoosiers met the day after the election for an emergency meeting. A representative from the alliance attended a community rally Sunday to share their mission and advocate for the undocumented.
Around 30 members from the alliance met Tuesday afternoon at the Bloomington Faculty Council meeting, hoping to get a resolution to designate IU as a sanctuary campus passed.
No such resolution was introduced or passed, but Robel addressed the concern for undocumented students’ future when asked by a member of the council. She said it is a little early to be able to do more than analysis and planning.
So to amplify their message and mission, Palomo and the UndocuHoosier Alliance organized and led a rally at noon Wednesday at Sample Gates.
The alliance advocated for designating IU as a sanctuary campus that protects undocumented students from deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“What do we want?” Palomo yelled.
“Sanctuary!” the audience of more than 50 students and people in Bloomington responded.
“When do we want it?” Palomo said.
“Now!” the crowd said.
The UndocuHoosiers joined the Moviemento Cosecha, a national organization dedicated to protecting immigrant rights, and other campuses across the country in rallies and walk-outs to petition for sanctuary campuses Wednesday. The alliance also created an online petition.
“It is often argued by IU administration that it will not risk losing state and federal support for Indiana University in order to support its 100 to 300 undocumented students,” Palomo said. “But the truth is we are not talking about a few hundred students or so, we are talking about tens of thousands of students who have had their dreams of higher education stolen from them.”
IU student Kathleen de Onís stood at the beginning of the rally holding a white poster with red lettering that said “IU you make us question if you are really ‘for all’.”
While bus and online ads sell IU as an inclusive and supportive place for all students, de Onís said that the response from Robel at Tuesday’s Bloomington Faculty Council meeting was one that seemed to not care about students.
When the group returned from the administrators’ offices, the other’s chanting could be heard.
“No human is illegal” the group still at Sample Gates continued repeating as the rest of the group returned from Bryan Hall.
Palomo waited for the group to finish reassembling and then made final remarks.
“As a community, we have very little left to lose,” Palomo said. “As a community, we are strong and we will not back down. If they do not do that, we promise to give them hell and to make their jobs hell. There is too much on the line.”
As the mass started to disperse after the rally, IU student Esmeralda Martinez stood with a group of friends.
Martinez said looking around at the people at the rally, she was happy to see not just the Latino community, but a diverse group of people there to support the cause.
For Martinez, the issue of deportation is personal. She said she cannot bear the thought of her undocumented friends and family having to go back home to a country they once fled.
She said she hopes that IU administration makes designating IU as a sanctuary campus a priority.
“IU is a big, well-known university,” Martinez said. “It is influential in different realms — academic and political.”
Despite the anger and confusion Martinez said she feels in the wake of the election and due to the response of the IU administration, Martinez said at the end of the day, these emotions make her feel ready to act.
“I feel just empowered and love sharing that unity,” she said. “Those are the emotions I need to be feeling.”
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