Presidents from at least two colleges have pledged to make their campuses safe havens for illegal immigrant students.
“We steadfastly support all members of our community regardless of their immigration status,” John Kroger, president of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, said last week in an announcement that his college will be a sanctuary campus.
Students and professors at other schools around the nation, from Yale University and Harvard University to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, have pushed for their college to become a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrant students.
“My mom brought me to the United States at a very young age,” an illegal immigrant student at Drake told KCCI 8 News. “We really didn’t have the resources to apply for any sort of visa to be able to come to the United States legally.”
While the “sanctuary college” definition may differ from college to college, policy demands include items such as not assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement in investigations on the immigration status of students and helping all students financially, including those in the country illegally.
“Across the country, many are calling for their universities to become sanctuary campuses,” Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, wrote on Nov. 20, declaring Wesleyan a sanctuary campus. “The model is the ‘sanctuary city,’ like Austin, New York City, Chicago, and dozens of other municipalities, which have declared their intention not to cooperate with federal officials seeking to deport residents simply because they lack appropriate immigration documentation.”
Around the nation, there are around 300 jurisdictions at the state, county, and city level that do not cooperate with government immigration enforcement policies, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
Over 100 colleges had walkouts last week in protest of illegal immigrant deportation policies for students, the New York Post reported.
“A handful of students on some campuses are demanding some sort of campus-wide policy that shields illegal aliens from law enforcement, but mostly it’s just a protest that is unlikely to go anywhere,” Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Signal. Feere added:
We’ll have to see how this unfolds, but these campuses in many ways are already involved in a relationship with the federal government when it comes to immigration and students, particularly in the case of foreign students. There’s an information sharing process that does take place. I think it will be very difficult for these campuses to shield individuals who are in violation of the law from federal authorities should the government choose to deport somebody.
“I think it will be very difficult for these campuses to shield individuals who are in violation of the law.” —@JonFeere
Feere says these protests and sanctuary campuses are more of a “publicity stunt.”
“I suspect that if we were to get to a point where law enforcement needed to deport an individual on the campus, whether it’s a student or an employee, that the campuses would largely comply,” Feere said.
“For example, even the president of Reed College in his letter acknowledges that he will cooperate with federal law enforcement when there is a direct court order present,” Feere added.
The campus protests have targeted President-elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Trump said he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, authorized by President Barack Obama in 2012.
“Undocumented students are currently protected from deportation by an executive order signed by President Obama, which also allows them to work and obtain driver’s licenses,” Fortune reported.
“More than 90 college and university presidents have signed a statement calling for the continuation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program,” according to Inside Higher Ed. The program is available for illegal immigrants that arrived in the United States before they turned 16 years old.
In the Reed College president’s declaration that the school would be a sanctuary campus, he said the college will “provide institutional financial aid to make up for the federal aid that these students are unable to apply for, such as Pell Grants.”
Students at private as well as public schools, including University of Texas-Austin and University of Wisconsin-Madison, have participated in demanding sanctuary status for their campus, according to Fusion.
“If those are public colleges that are providing in-state tuition to illegal aliens without providing the same benefits to out-of-state citizen students, not only are they violating federal immigration law, but they are penalizing Americans for being citizens and following the law,” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “The schools are rewarding those whose first act in coming to America is to break our laws.”
Some colleges have charged students fees to fund a scholarship program for illegal immigrants, created a tuition loan assistance program for students in the country illegally, and offered in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
“These public colleges—as well as private college engaging in the same ‘sanctuary’ behavior—are showing a fundamental contempt for the rule of law, which is the heart of our democracy and what has long distinguished us from the dangerous and lawless places that exist around the world,” von Spakovsky said.