What is a sanctuary campus?


The idea of designating a university as a “sanctuary campus” has come up among college students at universities around the nation the past several months and, having gained traction before the presidential election, is still being discussed.

A sanctuary campus is similar to the idea of a sanctuary city, which puts formal and informal policies in place that are designed to protect undocumented people from federal intervention, CNN reported.

“Our practice here is that we’re not going to do it unless it’s a system decision,” Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students at Texas A&M University-Commerce, Tomás Aguirre, said.

In Texas, no universities have labeled themselves as a sanctuary campus while few others around the nation have. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a tweet on Dec. 1 of last year that he would cut funding to any state campus that labeled itself as such.

“Sometimes it’s a lot easier if you’re an independent institution or private institution to make a decision like that,” Aguirre said, “or if you’re an institution like Texas A&M University or the University of Texas.”

A university labeled as a sanctuary campus would take steps to protect undocumented students from federal deportation, which can include refusing to cooperate with federal authorities or not identifying students attending the university as undocumented immigrants, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“It’s definitely not a question of whether we want to support this particular group of students, or any group of students for our matter, there are just certain things we can do and then there are certain things that are just out of our control,” Aguirre said. “If you’re a Lion, you’re a Lion, and we’re going to take care of you right.”

Action taken on undocumented people in the U.S. could affect those under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA.

Put in place by President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA allows certain undocumented children to attend school and work in the U.S. with a renewal required every two years, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“I have an overwhelming fear that in the first year in office they [the new administration] will cancel the program,” Damian (not actual name, the source would like to remain anonymous) said. “I hope that does not happen, but I think there will be huge changes in the program that could negatively impact those who depend on it.”

The president has not taken action on the topic of immigration but said he would release information over the next four weeks, according to a recent interview with ABC.

“I doubt that he would try and deport all DACA students…but I do have little hope for any advancements for DACA students, like pathways to citizenship,” Sarah (not actual name, the source would like to remain anonymous) said.

A report by the Dallas Morning News said that student information, except for their enrollment status, major, classification, and whether they live off or on campus, is protected by The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, commonly known as FERPA.

However, schools can disclose information such as name, address, phone number, and date and place of birth without consent of the student or the family, according to the Department of Education. But the institution has to give students and parents time to request that the information not be shared. The deferred action status of individuals under DACA is generally not known by schools or employees, since applications ask for a social security number and work status.

For individuals who apply for deferred action, the information submitted is protected from immigration enforcement by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

The reason information would be turned over is if the specific situation meets USCIS standards for a Notice to Appear. Furthermore, the information can be shared for cases other than removal. It goes on to state that the policy can be changed anytime without notice.

“Becoming a DACA student gives away one’s anonymity which is sometimes the only thing that allows a student eligible for DACA to feel safe,” Sarah said. “I am still intimidated by the future. These tasks can be quite intimidating at times, but I like to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”