Pitzer Forms Working Group to Uphold Sanctuary Status

In response to the White House's hardline stance on immigration policy, Pitzer College has formed a sanctuary working group of staff and faculty members, whose aim will be to flexibly and proactively uphold Pitzer College’s commitment to being a sanctuary college.

On Jan. 30, Pitzer President Melvin Oliver wrote a letter to the Pitzer community in response to the widely-criticized executive order by the Trump administration that enacted an immigration ban on Jan. 27. The ban has since been ruled unconstituional by a federal appeals court.

“As our understanding of unfolding events deepens, we are reviewing and expanding ways to improve assistance to our community members,” Oliver wrote in the letter. “We are seeking ways to provide legal counsel for affected students and their families. And our newly formed sanctuary working group convened by Associate Dean of Faculty Kathy Yep is compiling critical resource information for community members.”

According to Adrian Pantoja, Pitzer Sanctuary Working Group member and Pitzer professor of political and chicano studies, the group was created in response to “what was anticipated to be some harsh policies.”

Pantoja said the group focuses on protecting the Pitzer community from the threats posed by the recent executive order.

“The sanctuary group was formed as a way of operationalizing that statement of diversity," he said.

As colleges and universities are “bastions of diversity," Pantoja wants to ensure that the working group provides students, staff, and faculty with the support that they need in order to foster an inclusive environment and thrive at Pitzer. 

The members of the working group were chosen for their diversity of expertise, research, and activism on campus. Pantoja has expertise on presidential politics, executive and congressional relations, and U.S. immigration policies, which allows him to help the working group anticipate and react to potential new policies.

Pantoja clarified that the working group does not decide the policies of the college. Rather, it offers recommendations and takes input from other stakeholders, including Oliver, faculty, and student representatives.

“The collective expertise of the college is what is really going to move us forward,” Pantoja said.

The group anticipates releasing bi-weekly memos to the community regarding the progress and actions of both the working group and the institution.

“We want to make sure that we are as prepared as possible in anticipation of different types of assault that the members of our community may feel,” Pantoja said.

Furthermore, the working group is reaching out to individuals—particularly alumni—trained in immigration law to run workshops and further the group’s understanding of individual rights. 

Pantoja said the group is interested in working with Pomona College due to its proactive sanctuary stance.

“We want to know what it is that they are doing and if there are things we can replicate as well," he said.

The working group will act as an ongoing advisory committee that will exist at least through Trump's administration, or even until comprehensive immigration reform is passed.

"This is something that all universities need to have," Pantoja said. "We need to seriously look at these types of issues and think about the game plan to ensure that students, staff, and faculty members are successful regardless of citizenship status.”