Students Pressure Elite Colleges to Become ‘Sanctuary’ Campuses for Illegal Immigrants Under Trump

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 2:02 pm, November 14, 2016

Since Election Day, administrators from several major universities have been under pressure to officially declare their campuses sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, with petitions at each college gaining thousands of signatures.

The petitions at Yale, Stanford, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Brown all contain similar language. Each of the petitions claim that law enforcement and immigration officers cannot set foot on campus without administrators’ permission, citing a 2011 memo from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

New Haven, home of Yale, is already a sanctuary city, as is Oberlin and Palo Alto, where Stanford is located; Rhode Island, home to Brown, has designated the entire state as a sanctuary.

But Randa Tawil, a Ph.D. student at Yale who helped draft the letter there, says it’s still important to prompt administrators to designate campuses as sanctuaries because “Trump has threatened to federally defund sanctuary cities, and furthermore [universities] have a special obligation to create a safe environment for their students and families.”

Meredith Mcglone, a spokesperson for UW-Madison, said the university’s chancellor lacks the authority to independently declare the campus a sanctuary, adding that the university’s police department doesn’t typically check immigration status during interactions.

“We have no plans to change this practice, which is similar to the practice of the Madison Police Department,” Mcglone says. “However, University of Wisconsin Police Department and Madison Police Department officers have full authority from the state legislature to enforce laws and applicable rules on campus without seeking permission of the university.”

Karen Peart, a Yale spokesperson, says, “We look forward to working with policymakers to [ensure] that all Yale students can complete their degrees and go on to be successful and valued contributors to the nation and the world.”

Dozens more universities may soon be under similar pressure to declare their campuses sanctuaries.

Tawil says that students at more than 80 universities have been collaborating to draft various petitions responding to Trump’s deportation threats. Though not all explicitly call for sanctuary status on campus, many of those emerging call for some initiatives taken to protect undocumented students.

For instance, signatories at Harvard have called for the university to designate specific funding for undocumented students, providing them both legal aid and mental-health counseling to help them cope with “the chronic threat of deportation.” It also asks, among other things, for the Harvard Memorial Church to become designated as a sanctuary location.

Letters sent to Columbia, Oberlin, the City University of New York system, several Arizona public universities and community colleges, and UCLA called for varying efforts to help undocumented and minority students cope with Trump’s election.

Several of the petitions specifically mention concerns about Trump’s calls to end Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, an Obama-era program that has protected more than 728,000 American youths from deportation, also allowing them to work and to receive in-state tuition in many states.

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.

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