28 Universities That Vow to Offer Sanctuary to Their Undocumented Students

Lead Photo: Photo: Becky Malewitz/South Bend Tribune
Photo: Becky Malewitz/South Bend Tribune
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For about two weeks, anti-Donald Trump protests have shaken up all corners of the United States. Following the president-elect’s victory, people have come out in droves to voice their opposition to a man who – for more than a year – said loathsome comments about women, the Latino community, Muslims, and anyone else who doesn’t fit into his narrow vision of America. His rhetoric has given his followers motivation to act on their worst tendencies, resulting in more than 400 racist attacks across the country since November 8.

And while for many POC, being on the receiving end of these racist encounters is a very real concern, there’s also fear that he’ll follow through on his campaign promises, including deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants and defunding Planned Parenthood. That’s why since the day he clenched the presidency, protests have taken place in big and small cities alike. Protests have even happened in unexpected forums like Club Penguin – a massively multiplayer online game designed for children 6 to 14. And with protests planned leading up to and immediately after the Inauguration, it shows no signs of slowing down.

As Jim Bendat – whose book, Democracy’s Big Day, details past Inaugurations, told the New Yorker, “In other elections, the protesters would largely wait until Inauguration Day. To me, this is unprecedented in terms of what’s happening already.”

One group that’s particularly stepping up to decry the Trump administration is students. All across the country, students of all ages have walked out of school. In Washington DC, for example, more than 2,000 middle and high school students arrived at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue NW on November 15. The teenagers chanted about climate change, immigration, and reproductive rights, the Washington Post notes.

In colleges, students are pressuring their schools to become “sanctuary campuses.” Much like sanctuary cities – generally defined as a city not cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials – the term sanctuary campuses has varied meanings. BuzzFeed reports that just like sanctuary cities, universities risk losing federal funding if they refuse to cooperate with ICE.

While California State Universities have said it would stand with undocumented students and refuse to work with federal immigration officials, Brown University President Christina Hull Paxson and Provost Richard Locke noted that private universities and colleges can’t grant legal sanctuary. “While we wish we could offer absolute protection to members of our community who are threatened by possible changes in policy, it would be irresponsible to promise protections that we cannot legally deliver,” they said. “Threats of deportation personally affect many individuals at Brown. their friends and families and – as a result – our entire campus.”

But students around the nation aren’t relenting. They’re demanding that their universities publicly back undocumented students and urge them to not release students’ immigration status. Students from more than 100 campuses have signed petitions demanding that their schools become sanctuaries, Fusion reports.

“Different campuses are doing different things,” said Vera Parra, a Cosecha Movement organizer, to CNN. “Actions are not necessarily directed at school administration, but about supporting undocumented students on campuses and their fears about what can happen to them and their families under a Donald Trump administration.”

Though ICE hasn’t spoken out about the legality of sanctuary campuses, a 2011 memo from the department states that enforcement actions – arrests, interviews, searches, and surveillance – should not occur at sensitive locations, which includes hospitals, churches, and schools. Additionally, María Blanco, executive director of Undocumented Legal Services Center, argues that everything from not allowing police to ask about students’ immigration status to protecting personal information is well within universities’ purview. Using the Fourth Amendment, schools can also protect the personal records of students, staff, and workers.

As we enter uncertain times, there are colleges declaring themselves safe zones for their undocumented students. Here are 28 schools that have declared themselves sanctuary campuses:


Columbia University

Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters

At Columbia University, students signed petitions and asked school officials to cover undocumented students’ tuition should Trump’s administration repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In a statement, Provost John H. Coatsworth said, “First, you should know that the University will neither allow immigration officials on our campuses without a warrant, nor share information on the immigration status of students with those officials unless required by subpoena or court order, or authorized by a student. Moreover, New York City continues to be a sanctuary city, with special protections for undocumented immigrants, and Mayor de Blasio recently affirmed that local law enforcement officials will continue to operate consistent with that commitment.

“If the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is terminated or substantially curtailed and students with DACA status lose the right to work, the University pledges to expand the financial aid and other support we make available to undocumented students, regardless of their immigration status. It is of the utmost importance that federal policies and laws do not derail the education of students whose enrollment at Columbia and other colleges or universities is made possible by DACA. We subscribe to the view of the Association of American Universities that ‘DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded,’ and we will continue to express that commitment in the future.”


Wesleyan University

More than 1,000 students signed a petition asking President Michael S. Roth to make Wesleyan a sanctuary campus. “Having spoken with students, faculty and staff over the last week, and having conferred with the Board of Trustees, I think it is very important to declare that Wesleyan University is a sanctuary campus,” Roth wrote on his blog. “For us, this means the following: Wesleyan will remain committed to the principles of non-discrimination, including equal protection under the law, regardless of national origin or citizenship. Wesleyan will not voluntarily assist in any efforts by the federal government to deport our students, faculty or staff solely because of their citizenship status.”

As we say in our web pages, we will continue to ‘welcome all undergraduate applicants regardless of citizenship status. Undocumented students, with or without Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), who apply to Wesleyan will continue to be treated identically to any other U.S. citizen or permanent resident in their high school.’

“Through our alumni networks, we are also putting together legal resources for members of the Wesleyan community with questions concerning their immigration status. We will facilitate connections to these resources and other support services, as we work with appropriate offices and constituency groups on campus.”


Portland State University

One of the first schools to declare itself a sanctuary campus was Portland State University. In a message to students, staff, and faculty, PSU President Wim Wiewel said, “Together, I ask that we reaffirm our unequivocal commitment to each other. All Portland State Students, regardless of national origin or immigration status, should be welcome, safe and able to pursue their higher education as full members of the PSU family.”


Oregon State University

Last week, about 100 students marched on the administration building to pressure Oregon State University president Ed Ray to declare the school a safe space. The school has since promised to not enforce federal immigration laws and will refuse to comply with any government effort to create a registry based on immigration status or religion, sexual orientation, race, or national origin. “Oregon State University is fully committed to diversity of all kinds, and we stand united for inclusivity and the safety of all people,” the school said in a message. “Oregon State will be a sanctuary for its students.”


Reed College

Reed College – a private liberal arts college in Portland – will also work to protect undocumented students. “I hereby declare that Reed College is a sanctuary college for the purposes of immigration,” said President John R. Kroger. “We steadfastly support all members of our community regardless of their immigration status. As a sanctuary college, Reed will not assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the investigation of the immigration status of our students, staff, or faculty absent a direct court order. In addition, Reed College does not discriminate in admission on the basis of immigration status. We meet the full financial need of all admitted students, including undocumented students. This means we provide institutional financial aid to make up for the federal aid that these students are unable to apply for, such as Pell Grants.

“As you may know, Portland is a sanctuary city and Multnomah is a sanctuary county. We’re proud of that fact. If for some reason that designation changes, it will not alter our policy.”


California State University (All 23 campuses)

The country’s largest public university system vows to stand with undocumented immigrants. California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White said last week that its 23 campuses – including SF State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Cal State LA – will remain “safe and welcoming” for students without status. The school system “will not enter into agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies, Homeland Security or any other federal department for the enforcement of federal immigration law” unless forced to by law, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Our police departments will not honor immigration hold requests,” White added. “Our university police do not contact, detain, question or arrest individuals solely on the basis of being … a person that lacks documentation.”

Check out the full list of California State Universities here.