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Petition calls for EWU to be a sanctuary campus

Petition calls for EWU to be a sanctuary campus

CHENEY, Wash. - Hundreds of students and faculty at Eastern Washington University have asked the administration to make eastern a sanctuary campus for undocumented or international students.

The EWU student body is one of the more diverse in the state. Welcome for all students is a part of the campus culture that often goes without saying.

"There's signs [in the halls] that say Eastern Washington is here to serve you, as students, we're here to protect you. We're here for diversity, not to discriminate. We're a campus for everyone," said EWU student Price Jimerson.

But some of the presidential campaign rhetoric surrounding new immigration policies has students worried.

"There's a few of them that, when the election happened, they were scared," Jimerson said.

Jimerson lives in the same dorm as several international students. Though the rhetoric used by President Elect Trump was directed mostly toward immigrants from Mexico, these students say the language hit too close to home.

"They leave in January, and [one student said] 'I don't think I'm going to come back,'" Jimerson said.

Last week, a petition began to circulate, calling on the university to publicly defend it's commitment to protecting all students.

"Having that sanctuary so they could just know that they're safe on campus is really important actually," said student Willie Stoutzenberger.

At last check, nearly 700 students and faculty have signed the document.

"Even if they're not from this country, why does that matter? They still need an education," said student Franco Paniagua.

Depending on what new policies require, there might not be much the university could do, as it is bound by federal rules and regulations

But the EWU Board of Trustees has released a statement saying that the university seeks to be more than a sanctuary, but also a place of dialogue and growth.

The statement does not definitively designate EWU as a "sanctuary campus." It does emphasize the school's commitment to its students.

In part, it reads: "Although we do not have the power to prohibit federal officers from entering our campus, we will do everything in our power to ensure they respect and support our mission to educate and transform the lives of all our students." The statement also reiterates that EWU complies with federal privacy laws that protect student educational records, including any immigration status information.