Before the Indiana Senate voted to pass a bill enforcing federal immigration laws on college campuses, three students held up a banner that read “EDUCATION NOT DEPORTATION.”
The senators in the Corrections and Criminal Law committee immediately shut down the protest, then voted 6-2 in favor of passing the bill. If it becomes law, the bill will make sanctuary campuses illegal.
A college designated as a sanctuary campus is one with policies to protect students who are undocumented immigrants. Previous legislation, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, protects some undocumented minors from deportation and lets them obtain work permits and an education.
The new bill would make state educational institutions count as governmental bodies and potentially limit ways colleges can implement the DACA act and other protections for undocumented immigrants.
Erika Espinoza, one of the protesting Ball State University students and an immigrant from Mexico, is protected by the DACA act.
“I felt humiliated in front of everyone,” Espinoza said after the failed protest. “Just because I am protected now doesn’t mean I will be in the next month.”
Students across many campuses in Indiana have been protesting to demand their schools adopt sanctuary status after President Trump’s election.
This classification would give schools permission to take extra measures to protect undocumented students, from demanding warrants from customs officers to refusing to cooperate with the law if asked to produce student records.
IU history professor Alex Lichtenstein said he doesn’t see a point in the bill, other than to raise fear in current and potential students. He spoke against the bill in front of the committee.
“I would foresee some major civil disobedience,” Lichtenstein said. “This bill will create many more protests on Indiana’s campuses.”
Lichtenstein said the legislation will harm expression and basic human rights in school systems, especially since he said it appeared to be hastily created in response to protests and the political climate rising from the Trump administration’s executive orders.
Sen. Michael Young, who wrote the bill with Sen. Michael Delph, both Republicans, countered that it took them months to plan and write the legislation.
No institution can be above the law, Young said, and the bill just includes state universities in a list of governmental bodies. The bill will not make repercussions any harsher for undocumented immigrants, he said, and Indiana will continue to protect students under the DACA policy.
“It seemed to me that if it’s for government entities, it should be for all, not some,” Young said. “It doesn’t seem like that’s right.”
As many students and educational professionals stood in line to speak in opposition to the majority opinion, Young and most of his colleagues in the Corrections and Criminal Law committee remained open about their support of the bill.
The safety of American citizens and people who immigrated legally is too great to allow for the uncertainty of protecting undocumented students, Young said. Some people here illegally have harmful intentions.
“What kind of system is that?” Young asked. “Where you cannot talk to the Department of Homeland Security, and three days later a building is bombed?”
Greg Taylor was one of two senators to oppose the bill. He echoed the students’ dissent near the end of the hearing, saying people have been attacked by white supremacists because of their identities, and that this bill will perpetuate the issue and fail to solve any statewide immigration problems.
“What are we doing? We should be ashamed,” Taylor said. “The facts are, these people are here, illegal or not, and they are fearful.”