Can a Campus Be a Sanctuary?


The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has prompted a growing number of petitions signed by students, faculty members and alumni at colleges and universities across the country calling on their institutions to limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities and to declare theirs “sanctuary campuses.”

“Given what is on the horizon, the promise [by Trump] to deport up to three million people, not to mention the recent history of deportation and detention already occurring in the United States, there needs to be a clear message sent to our immigrant students that UIUC is going to be a sanctuary,” said Gilberto Rosas, an associate professor in the departments of anthropology and Latina/Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-author of a petition that, among other requests, asks Illinois’ administration to “guarantee student privacy by refusing to release information regarding the immigration status of our students and community members” and to “refuse to comply with immigration authorities regarding deportations or raids.”

A petition at Oberlin College that according to organizers had garnered more than 2,300 signatures by Monday afternoon calls on the college "to stand with other colleges and universities and investigate how to make Oberlin a sanctuary campus that will protect our community members from intimidation, unfair investigation and deportation" in light of the outcome of last week's election.

"We wanted to take a moral stand on this issue very quickly and to urge the administration to take the steps to make a meaningful institutional response to this very uncertain situation in which very vulnerable members of our college and university community could potentially be targeted," said Shelley Lee, an associate professor of history and comparative American studies at Oberlin and one of the organizers of the letter.

More than two dozen such petitions calling on university administrations to take steps to make their institutions “sanctuary campuses” have circulated through social media since the presidential election. The idea of the “sanctuary campus” has gained steam among students, faculty and others who are looking for concrete ways to help those individuals who fear the possibility of deportation or loss of opportunities under a Trump presidency. Trump has vowed to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, through which more than 700,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children have obtained temporary relief from deportation. These immigrants have also received the right to work under DACA.

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