A small group of conservative students have launched a Change.org petition calling for the University of Nevada Las Vegas not to become a sanctuary campus.
Since Donald Trump’s election, students and faculty at as many as 80 universities have pushed for their administrations to officially declare as sanctuary campuses, which offers protections to illegal immigrants attending those schools.
UNLV is one of them; a petition delivered to the university president last week had almost a thousand signatures, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Now, the Campus Conservatives have sponsored the counter-petition, with four or five members drafting it.
“We oppose becoming a sanctuary campus because we don’t think a university—especially a federally funded university—should be deciding what federal laws they follow,” says Jordan Escoto, a senior who co-founded the Campus Conservatives a month and a half ago.
Escoto is a legal U.S. citizen of Mexican descent, and he says he’s tried to help his fellow students understand the other side of the sanctuary campus argument. “The people who are pro-sanctuary campus try to make it an argument about opposing hate speech and bigotry,” Escoto said. “That’s not what it’s really about. They’re opposing rule of law and equal treatment of students.”
Heat Street asked Anita Tijerina Revilla, a gender studies professor and activist who has headed the effort to declare UNLV a sanctuary campus, for a comment but didn’t hear back.
The university’s president will meet Thursday with the pro-sanctuary camp, and the Campus Conservatives have also requested a sit-down “at the same time at our own peril,” Escoto said. By deadline, UNLV’s office of public relations did not say whether they would be granted a meeting.
Christina Zbejczyk, the other Campus Conservatives co-founder, said she believes there’s actually widespread disagreement about the sanctuary campus issue. “The campus is more politically diverse than they let on,” she said, adding that the first day Campus Conservatives set up a booth soliciting new members, they drew more than 60 interested students. “It’s just people are scared of the backlash if they’re labeled conservative,” she said.
In a YouTube video, a Campus Conservative member defends his anti-sanctuary-campus stance. Other students stand behind him, silently holding signs that say, “No Más Hate! I am America” and “Shame on You for Killing Dreams!”
The university’s president has not yet directly spoken about the calls for and against a sanctuary campus. But in a statement to the Review-Journal last week, he said that “UNLV will continue to protect its students, faculty and staff against racism, discrimination, bullying or other intimidation that threatens the civility and diversity that makes us strong and proud.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.