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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, May 25, 2024

Campus events, TUPD counterterrorism training spark dialogue about immigration, undocumented persons

A student with undocumented status poses outside of Harleston Hall on April 26.

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series about how the Tufts and Medford/Somerville communities have rallied in support of undocumented immigrants and students. The first part has been posted online.

Numerous events have been hosted on campus this past year to raise awareness regarding the experiences of immigrants with undocumented experiences. Tufts United for Immigrant Justice (UIJ) has co-sponsored events with the Japanese Culture Club and the Tufts Premedical Society, among other organizations, to commemorate Japanese-American internment during World War II and to look at the experiences of immigrants in the healthcare system respectively.

Several groups other than UIJ have also organized their own events. On Feb. 28, the Tufts chapter of Amnesty International held a phone banking event in partnership with the Rez, where students were encouraged to call their congressional representatives in support of the DREAM Act, a legislative proposal to provide undocumented youth with protections and a legitimate path to citizenship.

"We were really pleased with the response from the Tufts community on this issue and got over 70 students to make calls to their congressional representatives," senior and president of the Tufts chapter of Amnesty International Driston Galvao said.

Just a day later, on March 1, The Veritas Foruman organization that plans discussions based on the Christian faith, hosted a dialogue surrounding immigration policy, religion and ethics. The dialogue was between Julián Cancino, director of the Latino Center, and Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at world relief, and was moderated by David Coleman, music lecturer and gospel choir director.

"I think it's incredibly wonderful to have other groups advocating for immigrant rights. It increases visibility and solidarity across campus," UIJ member Alejandro, who did not provide his last name due to safety concerns, told the Daily in an electronic message.

Aside from events, a recent campus controversy has also sparked discussion about the safety and security of immigrants and persons of undocumented status on campus.

This past December, Director of Public and Environmental Safety and Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) Chief Kevin Maguire traveled to Israel for a nine-day National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS). When Maguire's trip to Israel was first reported in the Daily on Jan. 26, Patrick Collins, executive director of public relations, explained in an email to the Daily that the trip was an opportunity for TUPD to learn how to be prepared in the event of a terror attack.

Some within the Tufts community have expressed that this training is related to the safety of immigrants with undocumented status on campus as well as previous calls for Tufts to become a sanctuary campus. Among them is Amahl Bishara, an associate professor of anthropology who drafted a petition to the administration reacting to Maguire's trip and calling on the university administration to make changes to its security and admissions protocols, including a demand for the university to make a commitment to support students and employees who have undocumented status, temporary protected statusor are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“You know, people who are Arab, people of color, are profiled by Israeli security police regularly, and so the sense that our police force has been trained by them, or that at least a leader of our police force has been trained by them, does not make me feel more secure. It makes me feel less secure,” Bishara said in a March 8 Daily article.

According to Bishara, the petition was an attempt to voice concerns to the university and to make lasting changes in the Tufts community.

“I was deeply disappointed. I wrote this petition, in consultation with others, because I and others think the training undermines our campus values surrounding equity and peace building and threatens the safety of our campus,” she told the Daily in an email.

Bishara also stressed the importance of referencing immigration and DACA in the petition, pointing out the intersectionality of these issues.

“If decision-makers at Tufts apparently thought the training in Israel would make Tufts safer, I and others clearly disagreed. I wanted to take this opportunity to think holistically and constructively about how to make our campus safer. Building toward the goals of a sanctuary campus certainly would make our campus safer — in concrete, positive ways — for some of our most vulnerable community members and for us all,” she said.

While many have expressed their support for this petition, others have questioned its motives by including a statement in support of undocumented and DACA immigrants at Tufts.

“The petition is not truly about militarization of TUPD; it is about Israel and the fact that it exists, to some students' dismay," sophomore Benjamin Shapiro said. "The petition utilizes language showing support for DACA and our students, which obfuscates the true intentions of the petition, and forces students who want to show support of DACA recipients to also sign an addendum against Israel. It is written as an ‘all of the above’ text.”

In response to Bishara's petition, the Tufts administration responded with a letter to Bishara signed by University President Anthony Monaco, Provost David Harris and Executive Vice President Patricia L. Campbell, which cited terror attacks and threats as reasons to engage in counterterrorism training.

Shapiro echoed the administration's sentiments that Maguire's attendance at the counterterrorism seminar in Israel was important in training TUPD, highlighting the recent Parkland, Fla. shooting and a campus lockdown during the police search for the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 as evidence of the need for counterterrorism training. He also told the Daily that he thinks these trainings make the Tufts campus more secure, rather than working to harm persons of color and those with undocumented status, as mentioned in the petition.

“The claim that Israelis are somehow going to turn our campus police racist and target certain communities is rooted in the deeply anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews are manipulative, corrupt people who are attempting to influence the world in a global domination plot. It feels comical having to even explain that. We must protect our DACA students but not from TUPD. TUPD is on campus to protect and defend us from threats that are all too real. unfortunately,” Shapiro said.

According to Bishara, the counterterrorism seminar opens up many different issues that need to be discussed within the Tufts community.

“Regarding critiques of the inclusion of calls for sanctuary, … the reason we used this petition to build toward making Tufts a sanctuary campus is that we wanted to address the broader, intersectional issues of safety and justice raised by the counter-terror training in Israel,” she told the Daily.

Bishara also added that she welcomed the initial response of the administration to her letter and that she looks forward to working more closely with the university to discuss concerns and work toward successfully building a sanctuary campus at Tufts.