UMass, Mt. Holyoke, Amherst students demand ‘sanctuary campuses’ for undocumented immigrants in Wednesday walkout

  • Acacia Handel holds a sign during a demonstration outside Trump Tower in New York last Saturday to protest against President-elect Donald Trump. AP FILE PHOTO

Published: 11/15/2016 11:36:41 PM

Students, faculty and staff at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College and over 100 other instituations nationwide will walk out of their classes Wednesday to protest President-elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies and demand that their campuses protect undocumented students from deportation.

The local demonstrations are part of the #SanctuaryCampus movement. Community members at institutions across the country are demanding that their colleges and universities adopt policies similar to those of sanctuary cities — generally defined as places where local police refuse to cooperate with federal officials to deport undocumented immigrants who have otherwise not committed a crime.

At UMass, demonstrators are demanding that university officials decline to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), hold public forums to engage groups associated with and concerned about the welfare of undocumented immigrants and release a statement by Friday afternoon detailing a plan regarding those demands.

Meantime, a petition circulating online asks that UMass “declare itself a ‘sanctuary center of higher education’ committed to protecting the members of its community from unfair deportation, investigation, or other intimidation.”

A press release send by Amherst College organizers are demanding something similar from their school.

“An imminent Trump presidency puts undocumented members of the Amherst College community in positions of unprecedented risk,” it reads. “To declare Amherst a #SanctuaryCampus means to call it a place where undocumented students and community members are free from the fear of deportation, and where (ICE) officials are not welcome. This student-organized movement will call on Amherst College to adopt explicit policies that would protect undocumented students and community members.”

Northampton and Amherst are among communities considered sanctuary cities.

Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz in 2014 signed an executive order directing police not to honor extrajudicial detainer requests from ICE. Those requests can instruct federal, state and local law enforcement officials to hold someone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant for an additional 48 hours after they would normally be released, to allow ICE to take custody of that person.

The detention requests are a civil matter and distinct from a criminal arrest warrant. Essentially, the city’s policy means its police will not hold people without a warrant.

Walkout participants will meet at the following Five College locations:

UMass: 3 p.m. in front of the Student Union.

Amherst College: noon at Converse Hall

Mount Holyoke College: 3 p.m. at Mary Lyon Hall

Chris Lindahl can be reached at

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