The Student Association Senate passed Resolution #4, expressing support of the federal BRIDGE Act, in a 22-1-2 vote Monday night, after more than 30 minutes of debate in addition to discussions at two prior SA meetings. Demonstrators from a student group attended the meeting and voiced their support by holding signs bearing slogans in favor of the BRIDGE Act as their representatives voted.
The BRIDGE, or Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act, is a bipartisan Senate bill that proposes to encode the executive order Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals into law. President Barack Obama signed DACA in 2012, which provides temporary protection to illegal immigrants who came to the United States at a young age and who are pursuing an education.
DACA currently protects undocumented students at Rice, but may be revoked at any time by President Donald Trump through an executive order.
Will Rice College and Hanszen College presidents voted differently than their college’s senators, citing student concerns about the SA’s role in external politics.
Hanszen President Kenny Groszman, a senior, cast the single “no” vote. He said while most Hanszen students supported the sentiment behind the resolution, there was also significant hesitation about whether the SA should be involved in making such a statement.
“The ‘no’ vote is not a vote against the BRIDGE Act and DACA students because that’s not our sentiment at all,” Groszman said. “Rather it’s a sentiment of how we feel that the proper procedure has not yet been followed in order for the SA to make a statement like this representing the student body.”
According to Will Rice President Ankush Agrawal, Will Rice cast one “yes” vote and one abstention because a survey of the college showed its students were split with 51 percent in favor of a “yes” vote and 49 percent in favor of a “no” vote or an abstention.
“[Will Rice Senator Sanket Mehta] and I voted first and foremost to represent our college rather than our personal beliefs,” Agrawal said. “From survey responses, it seemed the opposition to Resolution #4 stemmed largely from concerns regarding procedure and precedent, rather than the BRIDGE Act itself.”
The approximately half-hour debate at Senate included arguments for the immediate passage of the resolution to protect Rice DACA students and, conversely, for a delay of the vote in order to continue discussing how the SA would be involved in partisan issues in the future.
According to Jones College President Chris Sabbagh, who voted in favor of the resolution, the SA needs to have additional conversations about its role in future federal legislature.
Sabbagh, a senior, addressed SA President Griffin Thomas and Director of Government Relations Antonia Iyer, both of whom co-sponsored Resolution #4.
“I don’t think students know the process that you all went through to decide to bring this up as a piece of legislation,” Sabbagh said.
McMurtry College President Madhuri Venkateswar compared DACA students to women who fought for sexual assault prevention.
“It was immigrant women who fought and risked their physical safety and I draw a comparison between those populations and DACA populations right now,” Venkateswar, a senior, said.
Venkateswar also said it was more important to vote on the resolution than to continue debate about how the Senate should handle political matters.
“We should have conversations about what we should do as a Senate but first and foremost we should have those conversations later when they don’t have to do with invisible students at Rice on this campus,” Venkateswar said.
Duncan College President David Doucet motioned to end debate immediately after the floor opened, but the motion failed.
Brown College Senator Taylor Morin, who supported the motion to close debate, said the weeks and months preceding the vote should have been enough time for senators to gather opinion and properly represent their colleges.
“There [have] been discussions about this issue of DACA, whether Rice should be a sanctuary campus, all the way since November,” Morin, a sophomore, said.
Brown President Santiago Avila, who made the second motion to end debate, also said that the vote should not be delayed in favor of more discussion.
“Every day that we delay tells our students that are actually affected by this that we care a little less about them,” Avila, a junior, said. “As the Student Association, we have a duty to uphold the community values that we set forth and we have to stand up for our students.”
The second vote to close debate passed by one.
Jones senior Meredith Glaubach, McMurtry senior Magen Eissenstat and Brown freshman Carly Frieders organized students to participate in a silent show of support for Resolution #4.
Students lined one wall of Farnsworth Pavilion, where the meeting was held, holding signs with messages such as “Support our undocumented community” and “Stronger together #BridgeTheGap.”
Frieders spoke for the group at the beginning of the debate on the resolution.
“We feel the most important job of the SA should be to advance the needs of the students in this university and the most important thing about this resolution is that it would do that,” Frieders said. “It would protect undocumented students on this campus and it would ultimately do so by supporting a bipartisan bill.”