Around 900 Bellarmine University students and staff members have written and submitted a petition to make Bellarmine a sanctuary campus.

In the United States, there are 215 campuses that have declared themselves sanctuary campuses.

“Essentially, a sanctuary campus is a statement of declarence of mission of solidarity, especially with undocumented students within our borders,” said Sassa Rivera, one of the petition’s founders and an ambassador for the Office for Identity and Inclusion. “At Bellarmine, our sanctuary campus is essentially to say that we will not abide into any laws that repeal any DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students, any undocumented students who are already in our borders as well as within our care, as well as publicly stand against any ignorance or hate and especially support our students.”

The U.S. has laws and policies that protect undocumented citizens, whether they came from another country or were born in the U.S. to parents who are undocumented. One of these policies is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which President Barack Obama signed into law in 2012. DACA gives undocumented citizens who entered the country as minors renewable permission to live in the United States for two years. This permission is especially important for college students because undocumented citizens cannot receive financial aid unless they are enrolled in DACA.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump said that he wants to appeal laws that protect undocumented citizens, whether it be by preventing them from entering the country or deporting those who are already here. By declaring itself a sanctuary campus, Bellarmine is stating that it refuses to abide by any law that would cause students attending Bellarmine to be deported. Additionally, Bellarmine is publicly declaring that it will not allow bullying and hate speech on its campus.

To get the process going, those behind the petition drafted a letter to Dr. Doris Tegart. Recently, Tegart presented the idea to the Bellarmine committee for their approval. Supporters hope to hear their decision within the next few weeks.

However, some of the people behind the petition said they believe it is about more than political policies. One of the biggest drivers behind the petition is theology chair and professor Dr. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty. For her, making Bellarmine a sanctuary campus is a theological decision that is in line with the university’s Catholic roots.

“For me this is clearly theological. If you look at the heart of the Hebrew bible and also Christian scriptures, it is about, in my opinion, about hospitality to the stranger,” Hinson-Hasty said.

Students and staff are encouraged to help each other and reach out to the Bellarmine community. Hospitality is so important to Bellarmine that it is symbolized by the image of a pineapple on the university crest. Hinson-Hasty said that Bellarmine should prove it is hospitable by becoming a sanctuary campus.

“Hospitality to the stranger means not only God’s manifest in human history but also authentic care to people who are most vulnerable. I think it is clear from religious teachings and not just Christian teachings, that a threat of deportations counter to that idea of hospitality to the stranger.”

Led by Hinson-Hasty and about 14 other people, the petition was well received by not only those within the university but those who have nothing to do with Bellarmine at all. Justin Wells, a musical artist located in Lexington, Kentucky reached out to Hinson-Hasty via email to pledge his support of the petition.

“All that is required for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing,” Wells wrote. “But you all have all taken the first important step in fighting that, and deserve all the praise you will receive for doing so.”

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