Yale students participate in walkout to support undocumented peers

(WTNH / Peter McCue)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — College students at campuses around the country held walkouts, sit-ins and rallies on Wednesday. They want school administrators to protect undocumented students and employees from immigration proceedings expected to take place under Donald Trump’s administration.

Students at more than 130 universities across the country took part in the movement, including students at Yale University and at Wesleyan University. Students at Yale say the walkout on Wednesday afternoon will not be the last event of its kind. A large group of Yale students stepped out of class to take a stand. They rallied in support of undocumented immigrants. This was personal for many students, including Ramon Valdez. He is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who is coming forward about his status.

“I am unafraid and I am unapologetic about it,” he said to the crowd.

He says there is a sense of fear in the university community after Trump’s election, just as there is all across the country. He wants to change that.

“We have to start here. We have to start in our campus,” said Valdez. “We have to start saying you’re welcome. You not only are welcome but you have a voice.”

Students say they will do whatever it takes to stop Trump from making deportations routine. Zunaira Arshad, whose parents moved here from Pakistan, signed up to get more involved. She says this is an issue that affects everyone.

“All of us are here from an immigrant background unless we’re Native Americans,” said Arshad.

The students are calling for protection for undocumented immigrants, and they’re coming together to show their respect for them. They want the university to make sure all its students feel safe.

“I love what happened here [Wednesday],” said Arshad. “It’s the most important thing that we maintain diversity. We learn from people around us. We grow.”

Carlos Rojas Rodriguez, an organizer with Movimiento Cosecha, explained why it’s important for educational institutions to make this stand.

Our colleges and universities, have a moral responsibility to ensure that all students and campus workers regardless of immigration status feel safe and protected in their campuses. We are asking our administrations what side they are on; that is what #SanctuaryCampus is all about.”

Hundreds of Yale students walked out of class Wednesday in support of Sanctuary Campuses for undocumented students (WTNH / Peter McCue)
Hundreds of Yale students walked out of class Wednesday in support of Sanctuary Campuses for undocumented students (WTNH / Peter McCue)

Ramon Garibaldo, a student at Yale, echoed that this issue is bigger than just Yale University.

It is not just about what happens on our campus. We want to show the American public that we will not let Trump normalize deportations and hate crimes against the communities his campaign targeted .We will affirm over and over again: this is not normal. This cannot become normal.”

Yale University sent News 8 the following statement:

“Yale University takes seriously the concerns being expressed in our community about potential changes related to our country’s immigration laws. Our primary objective is the safety and well-being of our students, including our many international students, and we are taking a series of steps to address their concerns and provide them with advice and support resources. In addition, a working group of faculty experts, students, and university administrators is being convened to analyze the many complex legal issues and explore possible responses. We have already begun working with local, state and federal officials to address these important policy issues, and we will be monitoring the upcoming changes closely. We will be engaging policy makers in order to assure that all Yale students can complete their degrees and go on to be successful and valued contributors to the nation and the world.”

Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth posted the following statement on his blog:

“In my message to the campus on Saturday, I underscored that ‘Wesleyan will never retreat from our mission of creating an inclusive and equitable community. We are open to debate, to challenging ideas, but we will never back down in the face of crude bigotry.’ Threats of mass deportation is one of the forms that crude bigotry has recently been taking, and this threat is totally at odds with our decision last year to treat undocumented applicants just like other applicants from the United States.
This weekend I have been asked by students and faculty about Wesleyan becoming a sanctuary campus, which means (at the very least) that we would not cooperate with any efforts at mass deportations. I find this a very promising direction, having said that ‘we will find ways to cultivate the values that sustain our educational community and protect the people who have made it their home.’ In the coming days and weeks I will discuss this option with the appropriate offices and Trustees. I will report back to the campus on what we can do in this regard.”