The First Letter
Below is a letter sent to the chancellor that details the steps necessary for DU to become a sanctuary campus. We have compiled this list drawing on actions and efforts recently adopted by public and private universities around the country.
December 29, 2016
Dear Chancellor Chopp,
In the wake of the presidential election, we, University of Denver Community Members, strongly urge you to immediately investigate the possibility of our campus serving as a sanctuary for students, staff, faculty and their family members who face deportation under President-elect Donald J. Trump’s proposed policies. We understand the current controversial nature of using the term “sanctuary.” Yet, we believe that our shared commitments and efforts to vigorously protect the privacy and civil rights of all of our undocumented and persecuted community members are intended to establish and affirm our University campus as a safe and inclusive space in these uncertain times.
Faculty members have raised concrete actions that the University of Denver can take to support and protect valued members of our community. We write in support of their suggestion. The following is a list of actions that we would like the University of Denver to implement in order to demonstrate our commitment to inclusive excellence as well as the safety and well-being of our undocumented community.
- The University of Denver should not voluntarily participate with or allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) / Customs and Border Protection (CBP) / U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on our campus unless required by warrant, subpoena or court order. If they are on campus without a warrant, subpoena, or court order, DU campus security should ask them to leave. Further, DU should not share any information about any undocumented student, staff or faculty with these agencies unless presented with a judicial warrant, subpoena or court order, or unless authorized by the student, staff or faculty or required by law
- Any request by ICE, CBP and/or USCIS for information or to access the University of Denver should be immediately forwarded to the Office of the Chancellor, DU police and the general counsel's office for review. The Office of the Chancellor should create a committee of qualified faculty and staff that can ask for the agent’s credentials, ask the agent why he or she is requesting access, and ask the agent what evidence of reasonable suspicion exists. Immigration personnel should provide written authority from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of DHS and/or the Department of Homeland Security instructing them to enter University of Denver property and for what purpose.
- University of Denver Campus Safety should not assist ICE, CBP and/or USCIS or Denver PD in efforts to identify and deport or otherwise punish undocumented DU students, staff or faculty. And DU campus security should not contact, detain, question or arrest students solely on their suspected or known immigration status.
- The University of Denver should notify the DU community, especially staff who work most directly with students and student data, in the event that immigration officials request or attempt to come to campus.
- The University of Denver should not cooperate with any federal effort to create a registry of individuals based on any protected characteristics such as religion, national origin, race or sexual orientation. This is particularly important considering that the president-elect seeks to surveil and identify Muslim community members.
- The University of Denver and the Office of the Chancellor should reconfirm its commitment to supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.
- If DACA is terminated, as the president-elect has threatened to do, the University of Denver should increase financial aid and other support to undocumented students who stand to lose their ability to continue their education and/or their right to work.
- The University of Denver should continue to admit students consistent with its nondiscrimination policies so that undocumented students should be considered for admission under the same criteria as U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
- The University of Denver should develop/expand resources for undocumented students, staff and faculty and build/enhance partnerships with community and legal organizations with regards to immigration services and support.
It is our responsibility to ensure that DU remains a place that actively protects the rights and safety of its community. We owe it to the most vulnerable members of our community to ensure that it stays that way.
If President-elect Trump implements his promised policies and we do nothing, DU's commitment to diversity, justice, and inclusion will be inconsequential. This is not a moment in which we can afford silence or passivity.
Awaiting your action,
University of Denver Community Members
The Second Letter
January 17, 2017
Dear Chancellor Chopp,
We would like to thank you and your administration for the efforts expressed in your January 12, 2017 letter to the University of Denver community. We appreciate your effort (and the input you most likely received from other university officials) to speak to the threats some of our most vulnerable community members face as the new presidential administration takes office. We support your statement that the university “stands strong in its commitment to protect and support all members of our community.” We would like, however, to revisit some concerns expressed in our December 29, 2016 letter that we believe were not fully addressed in your message. These concerns are related to the protection of our students and other community members and the appropriateness of the use of the term “sanctuary” to carry out these protections.
First, we think it is important to use the term “sanctuary” because it connects DU to the larger sanctuary movement across the country, and allows us to align ourselves with other universities that have joined the movement. Using the term also helps articulate our goals within the context of the current political climate more clearly. Recently, for example, a group of 27 Jesuit college and university presidents held discussions on the importance of using the term “sanctuary.” On November 30, 2016, these presidents released a statement in favor of using the term “sanctuary” based not solely on religious commitment, but also as a moral obligation to the protection of what they deemed “the entire human family, regardless of their immigration status or religious allegiance.” For these presidents, the use of the term “sanctuary” does not disrespect “those religious traditions that do offer sanctuary.” Instead, it aligns their universities and colleges in a long history of necessary social justice actions. Therefore, while we understand that you do not want to use the word sanctuary because you “have found no clear or common definition for the term,” we would like for you to reconsider the term as it reflects DU’s commitment to using every legal and moral means to protect its most vulnerable students. As you note in your letter, the term sanctuary has a particular theological meaning, but that meaning has also changed throughout history depending on the context. For us, “sanctuary” denotes not only a recognition of the precarity that undocumented and other vulnerable students face, but also signifies a commitment to protect such students to the fullest extent possible; we also believe that it is in this context that universities across the country are deploying the term. Additionally, we believe that while the word “sanctuary” may carry Christian connotations for some, it is not exclusionary of non-Christian populations at DU. We have contacted members of our DU Muslim population, for instance, and they are not concerned with the word sanctuary having Christian connotations. Instead, they are more interested in protecting the rights of all people as a shared moral obligation. Thus, adopting the term would clearly and definitively express DU’s interest in standing up against repression, a value we are sure you also share.
We would also like to address four other components of your letter. First, we looked forward to seeing a concrete response related to our request for the creation of a committee of qualified faculty, staff, and students that could review requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agents. Committee members should also be able to ask why the agent is requesting access and what evidence of reasonable suspicion exists. Furthermore, we ask that the university have an attorney on retainer who can be part of the committee and who can represent students facing deportation proceedings and other charges. We believe that having an attorney on retainer not only conveys the university’s unwavering commitment to its undocumented students but would also allow the committee to fight for students forcefully. We have already compiled a list of students, staff, and faculty who are willing to work on such a committee. We believe this committee could also make sure that university officials are following procedures outlined in your letter. As of now, we do not see any mechanisms for making sure that people live up to the important stance that you take in your letter, and what the consequences of not doing so might be. This committee could function in such a capacity.
Second, we are also interested in learning more about the plan of action the university has put in place if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) is terminated. In our letter, we requested that DU “increase financial aid and other support to undocumented students who stand to lose their ability to continue their education and/or their right to work.” Expressing a willingness to provide financial and other forms of support to our DACA students speaks to our “Vision & Values” and determination “to confront society’s most pressing challenges—everything from world health and global economy to access to education.” We hope you will address this issue.
Third, the final point of your letter states: “DU will look for ways to expand our support for all students, including undocumented and Muslim students.” We would like clarification on what this “support” entails because it is imperative for DU to be cognizant of the different forms of oppression that our undocumented students and Muslim students face. For example, recently the Department of Homeland Security began awarding universities, police departments, and other agencies grants (totaling $10 million) to “counter violent extremism” (CVE), a program that institutionalizes Islamophobia by offering incentives to those who can spy on Muslims. This hits close to home: the Denver Police Department is receiving $240,000 from DHS for “training and engagement.” One of the key ways that CVE programs work is to breed distrust within Muslim communities and within other communities of which they are a part of, including educational institutions. By not having effective and precise mechanisms in place, we fear that DU may unintentionally go down this path and embrace initiatives that may endanger Muslim and other students. We are interested in material forms of support for undocumented and Muslim students with an understanding that that support may need to take different forms under different situations.
Lastly, we ask that the university fully commit itself to protecting its vulnerable students, over and beyond the maximum extent allowed by law. In your letter, you continuously reiterate that the university will work to safeguard students to the maximum extent permissible within the bounds of law. While this is a welcome step, we cannot help but wonder if we should allow law to set the limits of what is feasible on the part of the university. As you are well aware, the president-elect has promised to not only marshall existing laws but also pass new ones that will direct state power against some of the most vulnerable populations. Under such circumstances, we feel that an ethically uncompromising approach that is always vigilant of law but refuses to be its prisoner is needed. To surmise, we are not asking you to work outside of the bounds of law but also not be limited by it.
We think that the conversation on sanctuary campuses must be multi-pronged, and address the needs of different community members on a variety of fronts. However, we also believe that the voices of undocumented, Muslim, and other marginalized students should be at the front and center when discussing this issue. This also means that the safety of undocumented, Muslim, and other populations are connected, although each group may face issues that require different approaches. This is the case for students belonging to the Black Student Alliance. In the fall of 2016, the BSA provided a list of demands to the university (we are aware that there has been a response, and we look forward to reviewing it). And this is the case for the Native Student Alliance who led us in a #NoDAPL protest last quarter. In the fall of 2016, the Daniels College of Business hosted an oil pipeline leadership conference in which DU Security appeared more concerned with protecting the conference participants than its student population it is paid to protect. Hosting this conference demonstrated a lack of concern for the reality of climate change and the issues of Native American and other communities threatened by it. And this is the case for women students of all ethnicities, who feel uncertainty with the election of a president who engages in sexual violence against women. This too is the case for LGBTQ students whose recent and hard-won victories are threatened by the incoming president’s explicit bigotry. This is true for students with mental or physical disabilities who face a president that has exhibited public disdain for them. And finally, this goal of safety also extends to our staff, service workers, and adjunct teachers who face precarious working conditions. We believe that DU, as you have noted, benefits from “different experiences and worldviews” that “help all to open our minds and develop better solutions to the problems we confront.” Part of our push for a sanctuary campus is to fulfil your expressed commitment.
Again, we feel DU has made strides in discussing how to become a sanctuary campus. We are proud to be part of a university whose administration is willing to listen to and act upon our concerns for the benefit of our students, and we hope to continue this conversation. In keeping with DU’s “Diversity and Inclusion” statement, we also hope to build a campus environment in which all are welcome. We look forward to your response to our recommendations, and how DU will execute the concrete suggestions we make in this letter.
University of Denver Community Members
The Third Letter
As many of you may know, Professors Perez, Towns, and Russel organized an action that organized our community in support of DU identifying itself as a sanctuary campus. The action ended with a meeting between the Chancellor, Associate Provost Lili Rodriguez, Special Advisor to the Chancellor Frank Tuitt, and University Council Paul Chan. Professors Perez, Towns, and Russel as well as a large part of the DU community comprising of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community partners. The Chancellor affirmed her decision to not be identified as a sanctuary campus. She restated her position in her campus wide communication and declined to name us a sanctuary campus. She repeated that she did not want the University and DU students to be targeted for action from the federal administration related to being declared a sanctuary campus. For many of us, given the history of our university, we were not surprised by the statement nor the position of the University. Like most institutions, institutional protection is the primary concern. Several of us are aware of and have advocated for students with visa, immigration, and citizenship complications and been disappointed by the resulting action or non-action of the university. Ultimately, the meeting ended with a plan to continue to investigate mechanisms that can address the safety concerns for students, staff, and faculty whose lives are impacted by immigration policy.
As part of the DU community, I encourage you who have expertise and information that may help DU as an institution to advocate, create, and implement humanizing policies to contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to share your skills and talents. I would like to also recognize those members of the community who created the document that requested DU to be a sanctuary campus, agreed to be contacts, engaged in organizing as we rallied for humanizing policies including: Fryda Faugier, Armond Towns, Raúl Pérez, Adrienne Russell, César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, and Christopher Lasch. Their work allowed for us to stand together, march together, and to speak with one voice in the interest of justice for our communities.
Finally, I have attached four documents to this email. The Latino Center is dedicated to liberated thinking and critical race theory analysis. I would be remiss if I did not share these four documents with you. The first the university’s divestment policy, the second is the chancellor’s position regarding protecting all students on campus, the third is a recent blog by Professor Lasch titled, “Despite calls to defund sanctuary cities, a steady drumbeat of judicial decisions defends them” and lastly the white house new protection order. I encourage you to read all three documents side by side. This will give you an opportunity to understand the context of the “moral” and “ethics” related to environmental justice, the protection of all people on campus, and one of many pieces of engaged scholarship regarding law and sanctuary cities.
It is important that we continue to help the Chancellor to consider our larger moral duty as it relates to term sanctuary and institutions of higher education. Universities should be the drivers of these discussions. We are already experiencing the linkages between the suppression of people and the suppression of knowledge as federally funded grant projects are being told to alter their communications and disseminations of knowledge related to their research. For more information about sanctuary campus, see the AAUP sanctuary campus page. https://www.aaup.org/issues/sanctuary-campus-movement.
Sanctuary Campus Movement
Get information on the work AAUP is doing to support the Sanctuary Campus movement.
Our continual engagement with institutions to demand that equity and justice be accomplished is a primary way in which safety is created in all of our communities.
Dr. Debora M. Ortega
Director, University of Denver Latino Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship
The Fourth Letter
April 2, 2017
Dear Chancellor Chopp, Dr. Tuitt and Dr. Rodriguez,
We would like to thank you for meeting with us on January 19. We are eager to continue a dialogue with you and to work toward concrete plans to ensure the protection of members of the DU community. Since our January meeting, we of #DUSanctuary have seen two Muslim travel bans, massive overnight deportations in cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta, and large grants given to cities, police departments, and university officials under the guise of “Countering Violent Extremism.” Yet, we have also witnessed Boulder, CO become a sanctuary city, college presidents denounce President Trump’s Muslim travel ban, and massive protests happening in our own city streets, airports, and college classrooms. Each of these events provides us with motivation to lay out concrete plans to keep our students, staff, and faculty at DU safe.
We appreciate the commitments you have already made. What follows is a list of some additional concrete plans that we believe will make our campus more prepared for the violence that may follow under the Trump Administration. These below action items are representative of what we call a “sanctuary campus,” and we look forward to discussing them with you further and to presenting these items to faculty senate. The list was compiled together with the students, staff, and faculty members of #DUSanctuary and in consultation with the Constitutional Campus Working Group. The first group of items we believe need to be put into place immediately to ensure the safety of our community members and to set a decisive course in their continued protections. The second group are longer term goals.
- Communicate to all personnel on campus the proper procedures to follow in the event that they are contacted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or any other government agency with requests for information about members of the DU community
- Form a task force, comprised of experts in the following areas:
- Immigration law;
- Protection of student/staff/faculty information;
- Human resources/staff/service workers;
- Student outreach/community organizer/communications;
- Support services and counseling;
- Muslim student/staff/faculty advocate;
- Campus security expert
- The goal of this task force will be to oversee the operationalization and implementation of the DU’s overarching response to the new threats to international, DACA, and undocumented community members. They will also report back to #DUSanctuary (we also have a list of suggested members)
- Provide financial and institutional support for the establishment of the Office of Immigrant Community Protection and Support (ICPS), drafted by members of the Constitutional Campus Working Group (a copy of the ICPS’s proposal is provided below)
- ICPS would provide legal and social support to noncitizen members of the DU community, connecting community members to essential resources both on campus and off. Additionally, ICPS would work for positive change and serve as a resource for noncitizens in the wider Colorado community, recognizing that the DU community does not end at the campus’s edge. DU cannot offer meaningful protection and support to the noncitizen members of its community without engaging with the Denver and Colorado community to which DU and its community members belong
- Create an emergency fund to support students, faculty, and staff affected by current and future immigration executive orders. These funds will help with legal fees, airline tickets, representation while abroad, DACA renewal fees, and other expenses incurred due to changes in immigration law
- DU should also provide tuition support for students most affected by the policies coming out of Washington (including, but not limited to, students affected by the Muslim ban, queer students, trans students, and undocumented/DACA status students)
- Provide financial support to the Sturm College of Law, in order to establish as quickly as possible, while keeping intact current hiring lines and priorities and without prejudicing or impacting those existing lines and priorities and without prejudice to the Strategic Plan of the College of Law, an immigration law school clinic within the Student Law Office, and consistent with the clinical model of education currently in place within the Student Law Office, to include:
- Establishing and funding tenure-track and clinical teaching fellow positions in the College of Law, consistent with the existing clinical model, to supervise students in the immigration clinic;
- Allocating funds to the College of Law budget to be earmarked for litigation, expert, and other expenses of the immigration clinic;
- To the extent it is consistent with the model of education and the intake screening procedures of the Student Law Office (including but not limited to screening for conflicts and financial eligibility for free legal services), and the design of the immigration clinic as determined by the supervising professors of the immigration clinic, the immigration clinic should provide opportunities for students to receive legal counseling, representation in immigration matters, and referrals to other counsel as deemed appropriate by the supervising professors of the immigration clinic
- Pledge that DU will not allow ICE officers to operate on campus without a judicial warrant, and campus security shall not enforce immigration law. But in the event that immigration officials do come on campus, DU should provide a secure space for students, staff, and faculty to go to (such as a dorm). This space should include bathroom facilities, cooking facilities, and be secured from the inside
- In addition, this space should be available for students who do not feel safe traveling over college breaks;
- Relatedly, DU should establish some form of communication with the university, such as a text messaging warning system, in the event that immigration officials are on campus
Actions to implement over the next 1-2 years
- Audit the security of all data gathering systems on campus and adopt secure tools and systems where they do not exist
- Devise a naturalization program that provides comprehensive resources and assistance to immigrant students, staff, contract workers, and faculty who are lawful permanent residents, and international faculty and postdoctoral scholars, to become citizens in an expeditious fashion. DU should provide English and citizenship classes, and financial assistance to cover naturalization fees, in addition to legal support for those seeking naturalization efforts
- Take the lead among universities in Colorado on filing amicus briefs and join the more than a dozen universities that have already filed a legal challenge to President Trump’s immigration executive orders
- If a student is deported or detained, DU will allow for extension—or ability to finish classes remotely
- In addition, DU should establish relationships with universities outside of the US if some of its students are deported. In Mexico, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has established relationships with certain universities in the US to provide education in the event of students being deported. DU should establish similar relations with UNAM and other universities
Events in recent months, including an unprecedented level of financial donations to the ACLU, outpouring of resistance to discriminatory policies, and bold and decisive moves by some of our peer institutions suggest that resistance to President Trump’s executive orders is not slowing. Acting decisively now is both about protecting our community members and setting a tone for our campus and beyond that links with this resistance. Now is the time to demonstrate our commitment to inclusive excellence through action. Thank you for your time.
PROPOSAL FOR CREATING THE UNIVERSITY OF DENVER OFFICE OF
IMMIGRANT COMMUNITY PROTECTION AND SUPPORT
In response for calls for the University of Denver (DU) to become a “sanctuary” campus, Chancellor Chopp on January 12, 2017 announced “DU’s Principles of Protection and Support.” Subsequent developments have demonstrated just how critical these principles are to furthering the University’s commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and academic freedom. On January 25, 2017, the President issued executive orders that drastically affected the ability noncitizens to enter the United States and that called for increased immigration enforcement throughout the interior of the country. These executive orders create uncertainty and fear among noncitizen members of the DU community and the broader Colorado community.
In order to ensure DU’s Principles of Protection and Support are fully realized, we propose the creation of an office of Immigrant Community Protection and Support (ICPS).
ICPS would provide legal and social support to noncitizen members of the DU community, connecting community members to essential resources both on campus and off. Additionally, ICPS would work for positive change and serve as a resource for noncitizens in the wider Colorado community, recognizing that the DU community does not end at the campus’s edge. DU cannot offer meaningful protection and support to the noncitizen members of its community without engaging with the Denver and Colorado community to which DU and its community members belong.
The creation of ICPS would put DU at the forefront of campuses offering support to noncitizens in their academic communities, and would resonate not only with DU’s Principles of Protection and Support but also with the University’s IMPACT 2025 strategic plan.
The Office of Immigrant Community Protection and Support
The permanent staffing of ICPS would include one full-time lawyer and one full-time community organizer. Additionally, ICPS would be a field placement for a Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) student, and could easily be a site for internships for students from the College of Law and other DU units. Draft position descriptions are attached. The lawyer’s work would consist of connecting DU community members to legal services and directly providing those services where appropriate. Communications between community members and the lawyer would be protected by attorney-client confidentiality. The lawyer would also work with community organizations, together with the community organizer, to identify and address needs relevant to the DU community. The social work student’s role would be to connect community members with social services and to provide direct services where appropriate.
The multi-disciplinary nature of the office is consistent with IMPACT 2025’s dedication to collaborative endeavors, and would make the office an excellent site for learning for student volunteers and interns.
Some examples of how ICPS would serve the DU community are:
- Noncitizen community members seeking to learn about their immigration status and its implications could have a confidential consultation with the ICPS lawyer or referral to other counsel;
- Noncitizen community members impacted by Presidential executive orders related to immigration law and policy could receive a consultation with the ICPS lawyer or referral to other counsel.
- Noncitizen community members seeking social services could have a confidential consultation with a social worker or social work student through ICPS and/or be referred for services;
- Noncitizen community members facing campus disciplinary or criminal charges could have a confidential consultation with the ICPS lawyer or be referred to counsel who could explain potential immigration consequences, and could be referred to counsel (including, where appropriate, through the College of Law’s clinical program) who could offer representation in the criminal and/or immigration matter;
- Noncitizen community members in immigration proceedings could have a confidential consultation with the ICPS lawyer, and could be referred to representation within a College of Law clinical program, or referred to outside immigration counsel.
- Noncitizen community members can be referred by the ICPS community organizer to community organizations that may be able to provide assistance or services.
- ICPS, on its own and through its engagement with community members and advocacy organizations, could contribute to the production and distribution of useful resources (legal and otherwise) relevant to implementing and advancing DU’s Principles of Protection and Support, including but not limited to legal analysis and “know-your-rights” materials.
Some examples of how ICPS could engage with and serve the broader Colorado community are:
- ICPS could collaborate with other educational institutions (whether K-12 or post-secondary) and organizations to adopt and pursue policies that reflect the DU Principles of Protection and Support;
- ICPS could serve as a resource for local community groups, nonprofit organizations, faith communities, and other organizations seeking to promote local policies consistent with DU’s Principles of Protection and Support;
- ICPS could directly engage local and state government officials, law enforcement agencies, and professional associations to adopt policies that complement the DU Principles of Protection and Support;
- ICPS could share with the broader community useful resources (legal and otherwise) relevant to implementing and advancing DU’s Principles of Protection and Support, including but not limited to legal analysis and “know-your-rights” materials.
 For legal issues, for example, noncitizen community members needing legal assistance might qualify for representation by the College of Law’s Student Law Office. Other university offices provide academic, health, and social support.
 See note 1, supra (“DU will continue [to work] with immigration attorneys and other community resources to provide support for undocumented community members”; “DU will look for ways to expand our support for all students, including undocumented and Muslim students”; “The University of Denver will do everything within its power to respond to the evolving needs of our students, including those who are undocumented or are Muslim.”).
 DU Impact 2025: New Directions to Transform Our Future, http://imagine.du.edu/wp-content/uploads/DU-IMPACT-2025-010516-LoRes.pdf. Transformative Direction Three of Impact 2025, for example, calls on DU to serve the public good by engaging directly in the Denver and Mountain West community. See, e.g. Id. at 18 et seq.