US colleges move to protect undocumented students

Eyeing Trump’s policies, several universities take on “sanctuary” status to shield immigrant students from deportation.

University of New Mexico becoming a "sanctuary" campus for undocumented students
University of New Mexico students and professors present a proposal to declare the campus a 'sanctuary university' [AP]

Universities and colleges in several US states are considering labelling themselves “sanctuary campuses” amid fears from immigrant students and pressure from activists following the election of Donald Trump.

College administrators in New Mexico – the state with the highest percentage of Latino residents – are looking into proposals that would grant immigrant students living in the country illegally protections while they pursue their studies.

Meanwhile, advocates in California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota and Texas are pressing their state and private universities to provide sanctuary to these immigrant students, known as DREAMers, after the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors).

 US sanctuary cities offer support for undocumented immigrants

“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,” read a letter from alumni to administrators of the private Roman Catholic university.

Trump’s alma mater – the University of Pennsylvania – even renewed its pledge on Wednesday to block federal agents without a warrant from removing students in the country illegally.

Students and professors at University of Illinois campuses are circulating petitions to make their schools sanctuary campuses. One such group in Chicago gathered more than 1,700 signatures and turned them over to school leaders.

A Nevada education philanthropist also is pushing for universities in his state to declare themselves sanctuary campuses.

Trump’s ‘deportation force’

The movement comes after Trump promised to end an executive order that granted temporary status to immigrant students living in the country illegally. During his campaign, he also promised to launch a “deportation force” and withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities.

Trump has not said anything about sanctuary campuses.

Still, New York’s Columbia University recently announced plans to offer sanctuary and financial support to immigrant students.

And last month, Wesleyan University President Michael Roth said that the Connecticut school would be a sanctuary campus and would not voluntarily help the federal government deport students.

 Undocumented migrants fear deportation under Trump

University of New Mexico President Bob Frank said university lawyers were looking into sanctuary status after a group of professors came to his office last month to deliver a letter with more than 900 signatures. The Santa Fe Community College board of regents declared itself a “sanctuary campus” this week.

University of Illinois leaders have tackled the issue at the flagship Urbana-Champaign location, about 240km from Chicago, saying a working group will review the legal ramifications of making the roughly 44,000-student campus a sanctuary.

Not all schools are considering sanctuary campus status despite letters, petitions or even protests.

New Mexico State University President Garrey Carruthers said in a Friday memo to employees and students that while NMSU will not declare itself a sanctuary campus, the school will not discriminate on the basis of immigration status or require proof of citizenship for admission. 

The California State University system announced recently that it would not use the “sanctuary” term at any of its 23 campuses, but it would also not cooperate with any new federal policy that targets immigrant students living in the country illegally.

This week, the University of California announced steps to protect students in the country illegally, saying it would not assist federal immigration agents or turn over confidential records without court orders. It also said it would not provide information for any national registry based on race, religion or national origin.

If Trump ends the programme launched by President Barack Obama called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the status of immigrant students will vary by state. Some states do not allow students living in the country illegally to attend college at in-state tuition rates.

Source: News Agencies