Union members want University of Washington officials to provide a safe environment for its staff and students.
Union members want University of Washington officials to provide a safe environment for its staff and students. ASK

Local unions representing employees of University of Washington's Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell campuses delivered a joint letter to university officials outlining steps they could take to declare the school a "sanctuary campus." This status would protect immigrant, undocumented, Muslim, and LGBTQ+ students and workers from discrimination and political targeting in the wake of Donald Trump's election, union representatives said during a press conference this afternoon.

Union members called on UW President Ana Mari Cauce and other leaders to stand up for their students and workers by refusing to share their information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), allowing deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, and working to prevent housing discrimination based on immigration status or religion.

As a sanctuary campus, UW officials would establish safe spaces for students and workers and "know how to take supportive action when members of our community are targeted," the letter states.

Cauce and Provost Jerry Baldasty issued a letter in November, declaring the three university campuses as "safe and welcoming places for all." But the union members want to see UW officials do more than talk — they want to see them take action, too. The UW president and provost issued a response to the unions' collective letter on Thursday morning before the press conference to reaffirm that they stand in solidarity with their students and employees. They wrote:

We remain steadfast in our support and protection of individuals' rights to privacy. [The UW police department] does not and will not detain, question or arrest indiviuals solely ecause they lack documentation. Nor do they or will they inquire about immigration status when they detain, question, or otherwise interact with people.

Andrea Canini, a bargaining committee member of student workers union UAW 4121, thanked Cauce and Baldasty for their "positive" response.

Still, said Canini, the most urgent step university officials should take is to establish an emergency fund, which could be used for legal, housing, health, and school assistance.

"We believe that all, regardless of country of origin, belief system, or immigration status are welcome, all are valued and all must be safe," she said. "We know there is a strong competing vision that surfaced during this election our opponents say that non-citizens, particularly non-white citizens, are less central and less valued in our society and therefore suitable targets for hostile action."

That hostility has already surfaced on the UW Seattle campus. In mid-November, Nasro Hassan, an 18-year old student who is Muslim and wears a headscarf, was hit in the face with a glass bottle while walking on campus. Her attacker, who she said ran away laughing after striking her, still has not yet been identified.

Union members want UW officials to speak out against hatred to prevent attacks like the one against Hassan.

"January is going to be a stressful month for a lot of students," said Vero Guajardo, a third year PhD student and teaching assistant, in reference to Inauguration Day.

Guajardo, who is also a member of UAW 4121, said she'd like to see the sanctuary campus modeled across the state and, hopefully, across the nation during Trump's presidency.

"We don't know what it's going to be like in six months, in eight months," she said. "My hope would be attention to these types of tensions, it's not something that's highlighted now [after a tragedy], but something that's covered as it continues. Our hope is that when we [as a university] see hate, injustice, and hostility, we will continue to point it out."