Colleges Students and Faculty Want Schools to be Sanctuaries for Undocumented Students


With many students set to lose their DACA immigration permits when President Trump is inaugurated, students and faculty around the country are pushing for their colleges to issue sanctuary statements. At the University of Notre Dame, for example, students organized a petition drive that garnered 4,300 signatures in just a few days calling for the well-known Catholic school to become a sanctuary. According to the National Catholic Reporter:

On Monday night, Holy Cross Fr. John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, spoke directly to the undocumented students on campus during a post-election interfaith prayer service for respect and solidarity. (Notre Dame started admitting undocumented immigrants in 2013.)

“I assure you of our special concern for you at this time,” he said Nov. 14. “The university will spare no effort to support you, just as we will for every student at Notre Dame. You accepted our invitation to come to Notre Dame, you are now part of our family, and we will do everything we can to ensure you complete your education at Notre Dame.”

Dr. Jason Ruiz, an American studies professor at Notre Dame and the grandson of an undocumented Mexican immigrant himself, was one of the main architects of the petition. “Notre Dame already has a tremendously humane policy toward undocumented students. What the petition calls for is a concrete action plan,” he told me in a phone conversation. “We are not asking Fr. Jenkins to transform his viewpoint or policies. What we’re saying is, ‘Your policies are great; we love them. We just want to see a strategic plan to deal with what lots of us fear.’ “

Similar efforts are underway at Brown, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and many SUNY schools. The SUNY Buffalo Sanctuary Campus Petition is similar to many others:

We, the undersigned members of the SUNY-Buffalo community, call upon you to establish our campus as a sanctuary for students, faculty, staff, and their families, regardless of immigration status. UB is the largest public university in a state that is home to the nation’s second-highest foreign-born population. As teachers and advisors to over six thousand international students, we feel it is imperative to support our diverse global community at a moment when President-Elect Trump has proposed to deport or incarcerate millions of undocumented immigrants.

As a sanctuary campus, UB would redouble its commitment to providing a safe and respectful environment to students and employees of all races, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications, abilities, health statuses, and nationalities. We are especially concerned for some of our most vulnerable members, including undocumented students, staff, and faculty, Muslims (and other religious minorities), people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants with different statuses who need support and protection, people with disabilities, and women.

As a sanctuary campus, UB would affirm its dedication to the security of students protected by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. This policy, which President-Elect Trump threatens to repeal, has enabled over 660,000 undocumented children, teenagers, and young adults to work and study in the United States. UB would ensure that DACA students of New York continue to pay in-state resident tuition.

As a sanctuary campus, UB would protect the privacy of all students, domestic and foreign-born, by calling upon campus administrators to refuse voluntary data sharing with both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and to deny ICE and CBP access to physical property owned by the university. UB would instruct its security staff never to request the immigration status of anyone on campus, or to participate in ICE or CBP actions.

We believe these measures are necessary in order to stand with those members of our community who will be the most targeted and least protected under the Trump administration. We believe such solidarity is essential if we are to live up to UB’s mission of convening a “diverse, inclusive scholarly community dedicated to bringing the benefits of its research, scholarship and creative activity, and educational excellence to global and local communities in ways that impact and positively change the world.”