By Elliot Kaufman and Nikhil Prabala
Now is a time to stand together
The People’s Walkout planned for tomorrow bears a message of love and community. It’s a demonstration that our campus is unafraid to step up and acknowledge that we care. The Walkout is a declaration that all of us are worthy of dignity and respect. We plan on joining in solidarity with Muslims, Latinos, and every other group that may need to protect its rights over the next four years. We need to show them our support.
However, we cannot fully support the demands presented by the rally’s organizers.
The demands listed by the organizers of The People’s Walkout
We believe that we will need a community empowered to organize and speak out against injustice in the coming years. As a result, we cannot denigrate “the cloak of free speech” — we will all need it to defend what is good and true in the age of Trump. We should condemn the content of prejudiced or fear-mongering speech, not its right to be expressed.
Additionally, demanding that Stanford become a “sanctuary campus” raises an entirely separate host of concerns. First, refusing to enforce federal law means risking our federal funding. Stanford’s recent policy statement on marijuana makes this point clearly.
“Stanford University receives federal funding for various uses, including research and student financial aid. As such, Stanford must comply with federal law”
This statement is as true for federal drug laws as it is for federal immigration laws. President-Elect Trump even spent a significant portion of his campaign promising to remove federal support for sanctuary cities, and violating federal law would risk the funding that is extremely important to low-income students. Our federal funding also sustains valuable research, helping Stanford faculty and students to contribute to the betterment of society. There are competing demands upon our compassion.
Furthermore, the petition asserts that Stanford has the power to deny access to the campus for the police department, and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). That is decidedly not the case and would set a dangerous precedent.
Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities cannot bar federal officials from entering the city. Neither can schools or states. Under the Constitution, the federal government has a right to enforce federal laws. To insist otherwise would be open rebellion. The memo cited by the petition to justify their claims requires only that federal agents obtain approval from their own superiors — not the Stanford administration — before enforcing federal law at a “sensitive location” like a school. Other jurisdictions can only refuse to report any undocumented citizens of whom they know or ignore government requests for information about them.
The above policy of non-cooperation is the only feasible option for Stanford. While most international students here have some kind of visa status, there are some who have no documentation at all. In fact, the university provides financial aid to those students since they are barred from working legally in the states and accordingly cannot make a large contribution towards tuition. Stanford cannot prevent federal agencies from entering the campus to search for undocumented citizens, but it can certainly refuse to share its list of undocumented students with the government. It is our hope that, in practice, the elements of this petition will match this realistic goal.
If one accepts that a nation can have borders — and we presume that Stanford is not being asked to disavow the foundation of the nation-state — people who cross those borders without permission can be legitimately deported and returned home by the state. However, illegal immigrants studying at Stanford are the least of our country’s concern. They pose no threat to our security, economic or otherwise. In fact, like other members of the student body, they are one of our nation’s greatest assets.
We affirm the core message of The People’s Walkout. However, the wording of its demands gives us pause. Their mechanism for creating a sanctuary campus seems to unnecessarily deny the authority of the federal government, and their dismissive treatment of free speech misses its importance in protecting our rights.
Our presence at the rally will not change Trump’s mind, but it may change yours. People of all stripes — including Stanford Review writers like us — will stand together in defense of liberty, justice, and compassion. We will stand in solidarity at The People’s Walkout.