Press Statement: June 18, 2020
Union Vows to Continue Defending Students, Organizing for Justice
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Members of the faculty and graduate workers union at Rutgers University are celebrating the US Supreme Court ruling that stops President Donald Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Rutgers AAUP-AFT stepped up its support for the struggle to save DACA since the days following Trump’s election, after he promised to abolish an executive order from President Barack Obama protecting young immigrants from deportation. In the months that followed, the union worked with student and community leaders from UndocuRutgers and Cosecha, among others, to urge Rutgers University to declare itself a sanctuary campus and refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
“Together with the ruling on LGBT workplace discrimination this week, the Supreme Court is distinguishing its exercise of power from the cruelest tendencies of the Trump administration and curbing the ability of the executive to visit these indignities on the most vulnerable people in our society, just to score political points,” said Carlos Ulises Decena, a member of the AAUP-AFT Executive Council and Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies.
“We’ve had a strong and consistent commitment on the part of the union leadership and membership to assert the primacy of our community as a place that welcomes immigrants, irrespective of whether they’re authorized or not to be in the United States. A week like this represents a moment of triumph for our union’s common-good approach to the work we do at this university.”
The union helped to organize a November 2016 march of thousands through New Brunswick—one of the city’s largest demonstrations in memory—to protest the looming threat to immigrant communities from Trump and to call on the Rutgers administration to commit to defending all its students and staff. University President Robert Barchi later told a University Senate meeting that “Rutgers is and always will be a sanctuary,” and he re-committed the university to charging students with DACA protections in-state tuition and not releasing student records to the federal government unless legally required to do so.
During spring 2017, union members organized rallies alongside Carimer Andujar, a Chemistry major and president of the student organization UndocuRutgers. Hundreds of supporters accompanied Andujar to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices when she was summoned to a May appointment about her DACA status. Andujar won a renewal of her status that day.
“We’re proud to have been part of one of the most important struggles for justice in the Trump era,” said Rebecca Givan, vice president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT. “No matter what their status, our immigrant students have endured years of fear under Trump. We’re hopeful that this ruling will help in turning the tide against the administration’s xenophobic policies.”
Decena said that the union has emphasized its supporting role for the students taking the lead in demonstrating for DACA and a sanctuary campus. “Some faculty members, myself included, were disciplined for supposedly instigating the protests of our students,” Decena said. “But we wanted to give this new generation the chance to bring its energy to the table, rather than perceiving ourselves as the elders who knew the right way of proceeding.”
The Supreme Court ruling focuses on whether the Trump administration followed procedural requirements in ending the DACA program. This invites the administration to try again to end the temporary protections against deportation. “This struggle isn’t over,” said Givan.