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Will UNLV Become A Sanctuary Campus?

In the wake of the presidential election, a number of cities and towns and college campuses have declared themselves sanctuary zones – places where people who are undocumented can feel safe, and secure that they won’t be picked up by police or turned in solely on the basis of their immigration status.

The idea of becoming a sanctuary campus is gaining ground at UNLV. There's a petition that some 700-plus faculty members have signed on to asking the administration to declare the campus a sanctuary zone.

Anita Revilla is one of the movers behind that petition. She's an associate professor and chair of Interdisciplinary, Gender and Ethnic Studies at UNLV.

“Once Donald Trump was elected, there was a real sense of fear, because much of his campaign was run targeting specific communities, and one of the biggest communities that was targeted was undocumented people in this country,” she told KNPR's State of Nevada. 

Revilla is hopeful that the administration will at least make UNLV a safe space, even if they don't declare the university a sanctuary zone. She points to another letter that UNLV president Len Jessup signed onto supporting students who are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“Our campuses should be sacred educational ground," she said, "Safe ground for our students to learn and to engage and to meet their goals.

In practical terms, Revilla hopes the university police agree not to work with the Department of Homeland Security for the purpose of finding undocumented students.

“We hope that it won’t come to that that our campus will be a space for immigration raids, but because of the general attitude of the public and even of the president elect, we’re worried that that might actually happen,” she said.

But, getting immigration information on students would be difficult, Revilla said. The university does not keep records of the citizenship status of its students. Revilla said when someone graduates from a Nevada high school and applies to go to UNLV they are considered Nevada residents. The application paperwork does not require people to declare their immigration status. 

Almost all of the college and university systems in California have declared their campuses to be sanctuary zones. Cal State Chancellor Timothy White told the LA Times last week, "Our police departments will not honor immigration hold requests... Our university police do not contact, detain, question or arrest individuals solely on the basis of being … a person that lacks documentation."

UNLV students have been protesting on campus in the wake of statements by a math professor that he will not protect students and does not support a sanctuary campus. He has since apologized for the remark

Anita Revilla, associate professor and chair of Interdisciplinary, Gender and Ethnic Studies, UNLV.

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)