Rally fights to make UMass sanctuary campus

By Jackson Cote

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Collegian File Photo

On Feb. 3, a group of approximately 90 activists rallied in room 106 of Thompson Hall at the University of Massachusetts, mobilizing in their efforts to make UMass a sanctuary campus for undocumented immigrants.

The meeting was held in preparation for a general strike that the organizers and supporters of the sanctuary movement will be holding on Feb. 17.

Organizers of the rally stated that they expect thousands to participate in the strike.

“We need and we want to shut sh*t down,” stated organizer Ghazah Abbasi, who is a doctoral student in the UMass department of sociology.

The meeting came in the wake of a statement released by UMass Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy on Feb. 2, where he established something known as an ‘angel fund.’

The fund, Subbaswamy described, would be funded “in part by charitable contributions,” to assist UMass students who are affected by “changes in federal immigration policy,” in their “legal, academic, housing, living and counseling needs.”

However, many of those who participated in the meeting seemed to believe that this was just a small step toward the greater process of making UMass a sanctuary campus for “refugees, immigrants and Muslims,” according to Abbasi.

“Chancellor Subbaswamy and President Meehan have already decried and disavowed Trump basically, so why not?” Anna-Claire Simpson, who is a Ph.D. student in the English department, added. “We’re not the enemy. We’re actually helping to make this a better place, so why not listen to us, work with us?”

After a brief presentation from Abbasi and Simpson, who explained the different aspects of the sanctuary campus movement, attenders of the rally then broke off into 12 “task teams.”

Each task team is an attempt to help undocumented immigrants in different areas, as well as progress the sanctuary movement in different ways.

“Sanctuary means non-compliance with agencies such as I.C.E. [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement]” and “actively creating the means for a sanctuary community,” Abbasi stated during the presentation.

Task teams included an “Email Administration Team,”who sent a constant stream of emails to UMass officials to draw their attention to the movement, and a “News Digest Team,” who sifted through the latest news and legalities regarding undocumented workers, as well as a “Rapid Response Team.”

Tonez Hall, a volunteer from the Pioneer Valley Workers center in Northampton, came to provide his expertise to the rapid response team on different trainings they can get at the workers center to help undocumented immigrants.

“How to legally document a raid” and “safely return people at the center of a raid to their families,” was on the list, as well as “[How to help] undocumented immigrant workers who are being discriminated against by their bosses.”

“The workers center is looking to get anyone involved in the rapid response network that wants to be,” stated Hall.

UMass sophomore and environmental science major Sarah Zolondick, who has some experience in childcare, is hoping to bring her services to the rapid response team.

Zolondick is concerned about “undocumented workers who have children who are documented, [and] making sure that the lines of communication between the childcare services and the police are clear and making sure that these people don’t get in a system.”

“Where I would imagine myself helping with is immediately being like ‘Where are these kids? Are they safe? How can we help with this?’” she stated.

 

Jackson Cote can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @jackson_k_cote.