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Petition pushes for continued protection of minorities

ORACLE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

Elizabeth Aranda, a professor with USF’s Department of Sociology, worked with some of her colleagues to create a petition after a student came to her with concerns about her immigration status.

“I have no idea what it feels like to think that, at somebody’s discretion, you could be taken away from the life you know,” Aranda said.

The petition, titled “Protect Undocumented, Muslim, and All Vulnerable Students at the University of South Florida” is one similar to causes across the country geared toward creating sanctuary campuses — which is used to describe a university that has adopted policies to protect students who are undocumented immigrants.

The goal is to show support for minority students who may be feeling uncertain about their futures because of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

Some of the students who may be concerned are those who came to the U.S. illegally as children and have registered with the U.S. government under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) to avoid the threat of deportation. As of March, Florida housed 55,933 people registered with DACA, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

President Barack Obama authorized DACA in 2012 through executive action. Trump has promised to abolish this program, according to his website.

USF System President Judy Genshaft showed concerned students that she will stand with them on Monday by signing an open letter in support of DACA, which has been signed by almost 400 U.S. university presidents.

“This week President Genshaft joined many university presidents across the country in signing a letter supporting the DACA program,” university spokesperson Adam Freeman said. “The University of South Florida remains committed to protecting the privacy rights of students as the university continues to comply with established state and federal laws.”

While the petition lists specific demands that include investing university resources in protecting DACA and making USF an official sanctuary campus, the open letter Genshaft signed calls for DACA to be “upheld, continued, and expanded.”

Aranda  said she hopes the over 1,000 signatures from students, faculty and alumni will encourage USF administration to continue to support minority students.

“The purpose of this [petition] is to let the students — who might feel negatively affected by policy changes to come — know that they will have a community supporting them,” she said.

Aranda recognizes that USF has a history of supporting diversity.

“[The petition] wasn’t assuming they wouldn’t support diversity,” she said.  “It was to send the message to students that USF has their backs.”