Educational institutions should be safe havens

Many times along the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump emphasized his strong stance on ending illegal immigration, which included a plan to stop federal funding to “sanctuary cities.” 

There is no legal definition of sanctuary cities, nor do they have an official status or affiliation. Cities fall under this umbrella if they have policies that protect illegal or undocumented immigrants from having their citizenship status questioned or revealed such as in Chicago and San Francisco. Now, many colleges may be trying to do the same thing for students. 

Colleges, especially private institutions, need to consider adopting sanctuary campus policies and implementing them as soon as possible. Connecticut’s Wesleyan University recently announced a sanctuary campus policy that is still in development but would prevent the college from voluntarily assisting the federal government in the deportation of members of its community, according to a Nov. 23 article from The Hartford Courant. 

Many colleges, both public and private institutions, have undocumented immigrants in attendance, and while these people may face obstacles with respect to admission, tuition and financial aid, their college attendance does not violate state or federal law.

Because Trump has taken a divisive position on immigration, especially illegal immigration, undocumented students across the country may be uncertain about their educational futures. Establishing a higher education institution as a sanctuary campus is one way universities can show support for undocumented students and distance themselves from policies that will force these students out of this country. 

Even state colleges can do their part in protecting the education of all students, documented and undocumented. The California State University system has established itself as a welcome place for undocumented students, and the chancellor of the CSU system stated it would not turn over immigration status information unless forced by law, according to a Nov. 22 Atlantic article. 

This reminder that the system is working for students instead of against them is sorely needed. There very well may come a day when the CSU system and other colleges are legally forced to turn over students’ immigration status information. However, this should not discourage campuses, and even if the term “sanctuary campus” has no significance greater than showing undocumented students their institution supports them, all higher education institutions should consider declaring themselves sanctuary campuses.

As part of this consideration, the members of a college’s community—including faculty, staff and students—should be allowed and encouraged to express their opinions on their college becoming a sanctuary campus before any action is taken. However, any campus community with a humanitarian and caring view of education should have no problem with supporting the education of all people, regardless of their immigration status.