This week, House Bill 2001 was tabled in the Virginia State Senate. Sponsored by Del. Charles Poindexter (R-Glade Hill), the HB 2001 would require the University to cooperate with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement on enforcing federal law.
Tabled by the Higher Education subcommittee of the Committee on Education, the bill would add to the section of Virginia state law dealing with universities’ protection of student information.
This comes at a time when some universities around the country are considering becoming sanctuary campuses, meaning they would protect undocumented students by limiting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officials.
“The bill would require university employees, including professors, [Board of Visitors] members, administration, to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detaining/deportation people on campus,” third-year Curry student Paola Sanchez Valdez, president of DREAMers on Grounds, said in an email statement.
At a Student Council meeting Tuesday, University President Teresa Sullivan said the bill was ambiguous and although it was tabled, it still has a possibility of coming back.
“This doesn’t mean the bill is dead, but it is very unusual for a whole committee to take it off the table,” Sullivan said.
According to Penny Cabaniss, the University assistant vice president for operations and director of state relations, the subcommittee’s decision could be a look into what the full committee will decide to do with it.
“The full committee typically adheres to the subcommittee’s recommendation,” Cabaniss said in a statement. “If the full committee does not take up the bill by next Tuesday, which is the deadline for bills to crossover to the other chamber, the bill will officially no longer be viable.”
Sanchez Valdez said the bill would not allow immigrant students to feel secure when the University and its employees would be required to work with immigration laws and detaining students.
“DREAmers/DACAmented students on Grounds would be directly affected by this bill because they would no longer feel safe in a space that is meant for learning and growing intellectually,” Sanchez Valdez said.
However, the University has stated the privacy of students on Grounds is paramount.
“We’re really quite serious about protecting the privacy of our students,” Sullivan said at a Student Council meeting Tuesday. “We protect the privacy of all our students, up to the point that someone shows up with a court order.”
According to Sanchez Valdez, the bill would go against the values of fair and accessible higher education.
“DREAMers would be stripped from their futures and hard work if they were to be deported at the one place they thought they were safe,” Sanchez Valdez said. “Higher education institutions should not be places of terror, but instead, places of support and intellectual growth.”
The bill, if passed, would affect how immigrant students would interact with friends, professors and faculty on Grounds, Sanchez Valdez said.
“What most people fail to acknowledge is this bill would affect the U.Va. community as a whole. Allies of DREAMers would also be fearful of losing their friends, students, and colleagues due to deportation,” Sanchez Valdez said. “Professors or administrators who would not want to comply with ICE would be put in a very difficult spot.”
Poindexter’s office did not return a request for comment Tuesday.