There has been a lot of talk about the movement to designate Emory a “Sanctuary Campus” and the potential negative aspects of such a decision. Some say this is a hollow gesture that offers little help with nothing to gain for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. I completely disagree. Symbols do matter and examples of this are all around us. The Women’s March that occurred in Washington D.C. and all around the country (even internationally) is a great example. Though one could say that nothing was accomplished, to those that participated and understood the meaning of this event, it was clear that empowered citizens were putting those in power on notice about any future oppressive actions with the idea that there will be consequences to those actions.
A constant theme I have heard over the past few weeks is that we are in uncharted waters and that Emory needs to see which way the waters are flowing before taking action. This seems to be a prescription for reactive, not proactive, action. If Emory does not speak up and help set the agenda, do we really have the right to complain when things don’t go as we would have them? Emory is an intellectual powerhouse in the Southeast, do you really think we just should sit back and watch where the chips fall? The future is what we make of it, and there is no doubt in my mind that we should be active participants in creating that future.
DACA students, for better or for worse, are some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society. Remember that these people are stuck in a system that would have them be second- or third-class members of society. Emory, as an institution of power and privilege, has the obligation to stand up and be the voice for this group, precisely because we are an educational institution and should lead the fight for the universal right to education.
Emory standing up and declaring itself a sanctuary campus would serve as a powerful symbol that the University stands with those who are targeted for oppression. It would serve as a symbol that we believe that those who wish to have an education should receive it. And finally, it would serve a beacon of leadership in a political climate that is confused and storm-tossed, a lighthouse that shows the way to a safe and inclusive harbor.
Alexander Escobar is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biology