Movement Urges Schools to Become ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ for Immigrant Students

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Since the election of Donald Trump nearly a month ago, there has been a growing push for colleges and universities across the country to designate themselves as “sanctuary campuses” for immigrant students — an offshoot of the concept of sanctuary cities, which have vowed not work with federal immigration authorities to deport illegal immigrants. Trump has responded by threatening to strip these sanctuaries of federal funding.

The movement is in response to Trump’s promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants and repeal President Barack Obama’s executive order that protects undocumented students from the threat of deportation.

It’s estimated that petitions calling for colleges to become sanctuaries for these students are circulating on more than 150 campuses nationwide, with many beginning to show their support for undocumented students.

One such letter was sent from alumni to administrators at the private Roman Catholic University of San Diego. “We urge you to declare the University of San Diego a sanctuary campus for students, faculty, staff, and community members now facing, among other things, the threat of deportation under President-elect Donald J. Trump’s policy proposals, and the specter of hate speech and bigoted violence in our campus community,” the letter reads.

The University of Pennsylvania — where Trump attended business school — released a similar statement: “Let us be unequivocally clear: We are and remain resolute in our commitment to Penn’s undocumented students and will do all that we can to ensure their continued safety and success here.”

Trump and others who oppose the movement have proposed cutting federal funding to sanctuary cities and campuses that violate federal immigration law.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said he would cut funding to all sanctuary campuses in Texas. “Texas will not tolerate sanctuary campuses or cities,” Abbott said on Twitter. “I will cut funding for any state campus if it establishes sanctuary status.”

Abbott’s declaration hasn’t stopped students in Texas from demonstrating their support for undocumented students, however. Texas State University students have asked the school to guarantee privacy “by refusing to release information regarding the immigration status of students, staff, and/or university community members.”

In Georgia, state Rep. Earl Ehrhart has also threatened to cut public funding to campuses that violate federal immigration law, which equates to tens of millions of dollars. Despite this threat, two private institutions in Georgia — Agnes Scott College and Emory University — have expressed their commitment to supporting undocumented students. However, they are still considering whether they will officially designate themselves as sanctuary campuses.

Despite the debate over this issue, any change to immigration policy will not happen quickly, and schools have time to determine the best ways to protect their undocumented students.