Sanctuary bill passes committee over students’ objections

By Shelby Mullis
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS — College students across the state gathered on their campuses in November to urge administrators to keep students’ citizenship information confidential from the government.

Three months later, students gathered again. This time, they were at the Statehouse.

Ball State University students Mari Lynnecruz, Alex Galan and Erika Espinoza hold a homemade banner that reads, “Education not deportation.” The students tried to hold the banner during a Corrections and Criminal Law Committee hearing. Photo by Shelby Mullis, TheStatehouseFile.com

Ball State University student Erika Espinoza is living in constant fear. She was one of three students from the Muncie university to attend Tuesday’s Corrections and Criminal Law Committee hearing.

“I came here to support,” Espinoza said. “I’m a DACA recipient, so this definitely affects me and my sisters. We live on campus, so Ball State is our home away from home. Aren’t we supposed to feel safe at home?”

Through Senate Bill 423, Indiana college campuses would be required to disclose information regarding students’ citizenship, if requested by the local, state or federal government.

Students like Espinoza who are attending school under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, would not be affected by this bill. DACA, implemented by former President Barack Obama in June 2012, allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.

The legislation comes after several cities across the country declared themselves “sanctuary cities,” refusing to comply to these requests for documents. Following these cities, several colleges nationwide started to implement their own sanctuary policies.

But while the bill would not affect Espinoza, it would have an impact on thousands of other students not covered by DACA, she said.

Lawmakers debated whether Indiana colleges and universities should be allowed to declare themselves a “sanctuary campus.”

Indianapolis Republican Sen. Michael Young, the bill’s author, said he originally thought of the bill when he saw the news of Indiana students requesting that their campus become a “sanctuary campus.”

Young said the bill is intended to require college campuses that receive state or federal funding to abide by the same laws followed by all other government entities.

“We can’t have a system in the state of Indiana or any state or in our country where we tell certain government entities that you don’t have to follow the law and specifically makes it against the rules on that campus to tell their staff that you cannot follow the laws of the state of Indiana,” Young said. “What kind of system is that?”

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, disagreed, and said lawmakers should feel ashamed of themselves for supporting the bill.

Taylor and Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, voted against Young’s bill.

“The facts are people in this state have been attacked based on who they are,” Taylor said. “And I’m sitting here with this committee and you’re bringing up a bill based on what might happen.”

Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, introduces a bill that would prohibit college campuses from refusing to release students’ citizenship information to government officials. The bill passed the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee 6-2 Tuesday. Photo by Shelby Mullis, TheStatehouseFile.com

He added that he would not base his policy making on fear, but on facts.

Following the hearing, Taylor thanked the Espinoza and her classmates for attending the hearing, urging them to continue their movement.

Espinoza attempted to raise a banner during the meeting, which read, “Education not immigration,” but Young urged her and the students to put it down. He said it was against the rules.

“I felt humiliated in front of everyone,” said Espinoza, referring to the banner. “We were just trying to express how we feel.”

Jeffrey Linder, Indiana University’s vice president of government relations, said the university is not and will not have sanctuary campuses.

“We’re kind of in the middle as the university trying to look out for the best interest of all students, whether there are handicap issues, race issues, learning issues. We want to take care of everyone,” Linder said.

While he said no government operations have inappropriately requested this information, Linder added that the university does not control what happens to its students. 

As for Espinoza, she said she plans to continue her efforts to ensure equality for all people.

The bill passed the Senate committee 6-2 and will move to the Senate floor.

Shelby Mullis is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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