The politics swirling around national immigration issues have reached The Dalles.
On Tuesday, March 14, the Columbia Gorge Community College Board of Education will discuss a resolution creating “sanctuary campus” status for CGCC in The Dalles. If approved, the sanctuary designation would put CGCC on record as not sharing the immigration records of students or assisting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and/or the Immigration & Customs Enforcement with enforcement of federal immigration laws.
The college’s Board of Education will consider Resolution 031417, which is titled “Declaration of Open Access and Protection.” It would stipulate that the college “SHALL NOT 1) share student records containing immigration or citizenship status without a court order; 2) allow federal immigration officials to perform immigration enforcing exercises on campus without legal authority; 3) act on behalf of federal agencies to enforce immigration laws or aid in deportation; or 4) allow any college employee during working hours to participate in any voluntary program of immigration enforcement on behalf of federal agents and will neither investigate nor inquire about a student’s immigration status.”
The meeting to discuss the resolution, which is open to the public, will be in The Dalles Campus Board Room in Building 1 at CGCC, 400 E. Scenic Drive. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.
The resolution stipulated that it would provide records only if legally compelled to do so.
“CGCC will oppose any change in federal law requiring it to aid the federal government in immigration law enforcement and … will only provide student immigration status to the federal government if it has consent from the student or if served with a valid subpoena, warrant or court order,” read one passage.
CGCC President Dr. Frank Toda said the board was asked to consider the resolution.
“A group of faculty and staff at the college have signed a petition asking me to take their request to the Board of Education,” Toda explained. “In this regard, I've worked with my fellow presidents, legal staff, and the community college association to draft a resolution that if approved by the board would declare CGCC a Sanctuary College.”
Toda is not a voting member of the board, and he has not taken a public stand on the resolution.
“Declaring the college a sanctuary is clearly a policy decision for the Board of Education,” Toda said. “I've been very careful to not talk about my opinion about sanctuary to the board, but instead have focused on my administrative authority.
“In short, if I were to take a public stand on the subject before the board did its due diligence, it might unfairly bias the decision before them.”
The resolution points out that the state of Oregon is a “Sanctuary State” and “is committed to the protection of all of its students, including undocumented student immigrants.”
The resolution also acknowledges that while “the term ‘sanctuary college’ has no legal status and does not confer legal protection to students or their families; it nonetheless offers a powerful statement of support to some of our most vulnerable students and their families at this time.”
Tiffany Prince, assistant to the president and Board for CGCC, said that as of Thursday morning, her office had received 49 signatures from CGCC faculty and staff who support the proposed resolution, with no one opposing it.
Prince said recent decisions related to immigration on the national level are driving the discussion and sparked consideration of the proposed resolution before the board.
Prince said anyone – whether faculty, staff, students or members of the public – are welcome to sign a letter supporting or opposing the resolution, or even send a letter to be read to the board during Tuesday’s meeting. To do so, call Prince at 541-506-6103, or email her at tprince@CGCC.edu.
However, Prince added that appealing directly to the seven members of the Board of Education is the best way to get your message through.
“I strongly encourage everyone to attend in person,” Prince said. “The best way is for the board to hear your point of view directly and hear the passion in your voice, and I want everyone to have the opportunity to be heard.”
Toda said the issue is a sensitive one.
“There are many local and statewide conversations on the subject,” Toda said. “It is a very emotional subject, and the word ‘sanctuary’ is very powerful given the many conversations related to immigration and equity. There are definitely many sides to this conversation.”
Toda also pointed out that CGCC currently receives about $2.6 million in federal financial aid that goes directly to students of the college, and is also in the process of applying for Title III and Title V federal support grants.
These funds could possibly be withheld if CGCC does not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that federal funding can be withdrawn in support of enforcement,” Toda said.