UMass Amherst students will walk out of class, host rally to show solidarity with immigrants

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) campus Courtesy photo

Published: 2/16/2017 3:02:48 PM

AMHERST — Students and campus activists plan to boycott classes and businesses at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday in a show of solidarity with undocumented immigrants.

Participants intend to depart their classes at 10 a.m. and will refuse to financially support on-campus businesses with the exception of student-run co-ops. Protestors will hold a teach-in with help from artists and educators in front of the Student Union building from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Organizers hope the action spurs administrators to designate UMass Amherst as a sanctuary campus. They want university officials to pledge not to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in any matter that could conclude with the deportation of undocumented students, faculty or staff, supporters said.

“We want the university to say, ‘We see the federal law, but we will not use our resources to enforce it,” said event organizer Ghazah Abbasi, a UMass graduate student.

The walk-out comes despite university officials’ assurance that they will protect students regardless of immigration status. Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy sent a campus-wide email on Jan. 28, writing that administrators would “pledge to do everything within our legal and moral authority to protect [members of the campus community], no matter their origin, race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, disability or immigration status.”

The university also has taken action to support international students and campus community members potentially affected by President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order — now mired in the judicial system — banning immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries from re-entering the U.S.

UMass joined a lawsuit with the state and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenging the travel ban’s constitutionality. Officials also established an “Angel Fund” to financially support the academic, housing, living and counseling needs of individuals affected by any such ban.

More than 200 students are expected to participate in Friday’s protest, according to its organizers’ Facebook page. The movement is supported by allies on and off-campus, including the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, which has backed similar events in the past.

The walk-out will come just one day after a nationwide strike known as “A Day Without Immigrants.” Immigrants and their supporters in major cities across the country, including Boston and New York City, closed shops or refused to work, hoping to highlight the contributions foreign-born employees make in the U.S.

Morgan Hughes can be reached at


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