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Here’s What You Need To Know About Sanctuary Campuses

There’s a growing movement to make Texas college campuses safe for undocumented immigrants.

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Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In light of President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to roundup and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the “sanctuary campus” movement has spread to nearly every major college in the state of Texas. A petition circulating at the University of Texas at Austin asking President Greg Fenves to explore the possibility of making UT a “sanctuary for students, staff, and their family members who face imminent deportation” has garnered nearly 8,000 signatures. More than 1,000 students, faculty, and alumni signed a similar petition at Texas State University. Faculty members at Texas A&M recently met with university officials to discuss making the College Station campus safe from federal immigration enforcement, and separate sanctuary petitions made the rounds at the university’s satellite campuses in Corpus Christi and Kingsville. Last week, students at the University of North Texas and Texas Women’s University staged a walkout and marched through Denton to show solidarity with the sanctuary campus movement.

Trump placed the potential number of deportations at anywhere from three million to eleven million throughout his campaign, so undocumented students and their supporters are understandably worried. But what can college campuses actually do to protect students and faculty from Trump and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

As of yet, no Texas college has publicly come out and declared itself a sanctuary campus. But a handful of schools across the country have already done so, providing a possible blueprint for Lone Star schools who may choose to follow suit. The University of Pennsylvania (which, coincidentally, is Trump’s alma mater) and Columbia University both recently announced that they will become sanctuary campuses. “The University of Pennsylvania will not allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) / Customs and Border Protection (CBP) / U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on our campus unless required by warrant,” Penn President Amy Gutmann wrote in an email to students last week, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Further, the university will not share any information about any undocumented student with these agencies unless presented with valid legal process.”

Columbia made a similar promise to not cooperate with federal immigration authorities unless ordered to do so by court, and in the event Trump repeals President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, the university said it will “expand the financial aid and other support” for undocumented students as a countermove, according to the Columbia Spectator. New York University and Wesleyan University also pledged to become sanctuary campuses. In reality, these declarations don’t change much at either of the New York City universities or at Penn, which is in Philadelphia, because both of those cities are already designated “sanctuary cities,” so local law enforcement agencies there are already committed to having limited cooperation with federal immigration agencies.

It’s unclear what might happen should a university’s sanctuary status be challenged. Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber recently said in a statement that he had consulted with immigration lawyers and determined that the concept of sanctuary campuses “has no basis in law, and that colleges and universities have no authority to exempt any part of their campuses from the nation’s immigration laws.” And New Mexico State University’s president rejected a sanctuary campus petition from students and faculty out of fears the school might lose federal funding and would no longer be allowed to issue visas to international students or visiting faculty, President Garrey Carruthers wrote in a memo.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott was quick to threaten any potential sanctuary campuses. On the same day students at North Texas and Texas Women’s University staged their walkout, Abbott tweeted:

Abbott has yet to explain how, exactly, he would go about slashing funds for sanctuary campuses, but his threat seems to hold no water, since he can’t act alone to cut state funding for Texas colleges and universities anyway. “Whatever money is going to these schools is worked through by the House, Senate and the governor’s office,” State Representative Trey Martinez-Fisher, a Democrat from San Antonio, told the Huffington Post last week. “If the governor is going to follow through with his threat to veto funding to universities, he will have only done so with the acquiescence of the House and the Senate, and I doubt that would ever happen.”

Of course, Abbott has long been an opponent of sanctuary cities. But he has yet to successfully pass any bill banning sanctuary cities through the state Lege, so there’s no reason to think he’d be able to pass similar legislation punishing sanctuary campuses anytime soon.

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  • José

    Setting aside for a moment Gov. Abbott’s distasteful fascination with dictatorial rule, is there any legitimate rationale for any part of the state government, executive or legislative, to withhold funds from a school merely because it declared itself a sanctuary? Worded differently, isn’t this just one more example of hypocrites who call themselves small government conservatives but in reality they threaten to abuse the power of their office to punish anyone ir anything that they dislike?

    • fedup

      This article and the one reply to it as I write this defy all logic. What part of “against the law” is so difficult to understand? These people are illegal aliens. Using a euphemism like “undocumented immigrants” to describe them doesn’t make them legal and doesn’t justify their presence in this country. Also, if they’re “undocumented,” how do we know they’re here? Surely I’m not the only person who recognizes the stupidity of that term.

      Cities, universities, and individuals who harbor lawbreakers are themselves breaking the law, and are subject to penalties under the law. Texas’ public universities can’t just arbitrarily decide to break the law without risking the consequences, one of which is losing public funding. It’s not a matter of what someone likes or dislikes as Jose submits. It’s a matter of the law. It really is that simple.

      I assume that anyone who defends the practice of harboring illegal aliens is okay with strangers coming into his house and sharing his living room and refrigerator. Hey there, Jose, would you be okay with me hanging out in your house and eating your food? Oh, I’m familiar with the rationalization of saying those “undocumented immigrants” deserve to be here because they work and serve a useful purpose in this country. Or better yet, the ones in question in this article don’t even have to be working. They deserve to be here merely because they’re taking college classes. So how about I just show up in your back yard and mow your lawn before taking my rightful spot on your couch? Or if I’m not feeling up to mowing the lawn, maybe I can just read something from your bookshelf, since learning is justification for trespassing. Of course, I’ll come in through the back door without your knowledge, because that’s how undocumented immigrants do it. I’ll just be an undocumented couch potato in your house. That’d surely be okay with you, wouldn’t it Jose? I mean, since you don’t believe in borders or laws, it’ll be perfectly acceptable for me to share your space, as long as I do a little work or a little reading, won’t it?

      Jose, you say that if a school declares itself a sanctuary, then that makes its lawbreaking activity okay. Now there’s an interesting concept! By that reasoning, I have to assume that you think a crack dealer should be safe from the police if he just declares himself a pleasure supplement provider. Merely using a term that implies no wrongdoing makes it okay, huh Jose? FYI, public universities aren’t autonomous, independent entities that get to make their own laws. They’re part of the government that you claim is treating them unfairly by requiring them to operate within the law. They were established by the state government, they are regulated and funded by the state government, and they have to operate within the laws of the state government.

      I don’t know you, Jose, but I don’t believe you can be that stupid. The question is, what makes a reasonably intelligent person think the way you do? Oh wait. Maybe I’ve hit upon the key word: think. You can’t possibly have given this matter more than a microsecond of thought to be expressing the opinions you’ve expressed here. You’re merely parroting collectivist talking points based on emotion without pausing for an instant to do a little critical thinking.

      The author of this article makes no attempt to hide his opinion that he’s in favor of the state’s universities harboring lawbreakers. I’ve come to expect this kind of drivel from Texas Monthly. This magazine’s viewpoints are indistinguishable from any northeastern liberal rag. It’s an embarrassment to us Texans who still hold traditional values and honor the principles of law on which this country and state were founded. But I expect an individual without the propaganda mission of a magazine to be able to engage in some rational thought and avoid the appearance of being mindless. Jose, don’t complain or turn me in to the cops for trespassing when you find me camped out in your living room. I’m just a dreamer! I WANT to stay in your house! You OWE it to me to let me stay!

      • José

        “I don’t believe you can be that stupid.”
        At least there’s something in here I can agree with!

        So chill with the assumptions and extrapolations and saying that I said stuff that I didn’t and all that. My point is really sort of easy to follow: it is not the job of Gov. Abbott to do this.

        There are multiple reasons why it should bother folks, especially conservatives, when a public official goes rogue like this. It’s a misuse of state resources. Look, the guy has lots of laws that he SHOULD be enforcing and administering. I don’t believe for one minute that everything else in the state is peachy-keen. So instead of sticking his nose into federal matters he ought to take a look at all those messages on his desk marked “State matter – Urgent!”

        But maybe some federal laws need to be upheld, you might say. That’s right. Also county and municipal laws. School boards, water districts, lots of things. According to your way of thinking, Abbott is morally justified to step in and set them straight, because they aren’t doing what they should. Obviously he can’t intervene everywhere so he’s going to decide which ones deserve his attention. You might call that judgment, but to me it looks more like political bias because he is selective about what gets enforced and what gets conveniently ignored. So you like him being a volunteer cop for federal law when it concerns immigration. I just bet that he has no interest whatsoever with enforcing federal laws that protect civil rights, natural resources, or public health.

        Worst of all, though, is the abuse of power. Unless you can point to some specific law that says a state can withhold funds to punish a school for the simple act of symbolically thumbing its nose at a federal immigration regulation, I’m going to contend that Abbott is seriously out of line. All y’all so-called conservatives really need to think more carefully about how much power these public servants wield, and how accountable they need to be.

        Like any othe citizen Mr. Abbott is absolutely free to speak his mind about what kinds of issues a school should be able to decide for itself. As a state official he should be able to take action if that is justified by his legally authorized duties. What he is talking about here, though, is something far different.

        • Yolanda E M

          The problem also is that for a state that insists on being obligated as little as possible to the federal government (remember the move to secede?) Abbot sure is chomping at the bit to enforce FEDERAL immigration law. Maybe he should be more concerned with the cuts in funding for Disabilities and education instead of worrying about a handful of students who should not be thrown to the wolves for the sake of looking good…unless he thinks that Trump might tap him for some high position??? maybe that’s it…

        • Kay

          Jose you may be OK with illegal alien invaders but many of us are not. They have broken our laws by coming here without permission. The taxpaying citizens are sick and tired of people like you wanting to give these law breakers a pass.

          • José

            Kay you may be OK with an untidy bedroom and a sink full of dirty dishes but many of us are not. It’s unhealthy and unsanitary. I’m sure you’ll understand if the governor orders the Texas Rangers over to your house and make you clean up, and if you don’t do just as you’re told then he’s going to confiscate your driver’s license and car tags. Sure, that ain’t his job but that house is a MESS an we are sick and tired of it!

          • Leigh Andrews

            Don’t forget the people who came here legally but overstayed their visa. They did not break the law by coming here, but they broke it by staying too long or not maintaining the required academic load or grade point average to be here as a student.

            For a lot of schools, out-of-state and foreign students are important revenue sources because they pay at least double the tuition rate as in-state students,. It is triple tuition for and out-of-state student at Texas colleges. and universities. For states that offer illegal aliens in-state tuition rates. this argument is weakened. Graduate students who are awarded teaching or research assisstantships often get in-state tuition rates, if the tuition is not waived.

        • Roger

          Maybe Abbot cannot do it alone, but if the Legislature backs him up, it’s “bye-bye” state funding (and probably federal also); let’s see how quickly these a–holes do a “one eighty”..

          • José

            Could Abbott actually force the issue and, with the help of a compliant Lege, make the schools back down? Possibly. Probably.

            But that doesn’t change a few important facts, the ones that I keep harping on and that y’all ignore. Meddling in federal immigration law like this just isn’t the responsibility of the Governor of Texas. It’s executive overreach. It’s arbitrary. It’s a whole lot of things that real conservatives say that they hate.

          • Roger

            Like I intimated before; with the new Federal administation, quite a few things (that you want) might disappear quite quickly; I as a (long term) taxpayer, do NOT want to fund the education of a “bunch of ILLEGALS”; I prefer that the funding go to US Citizens, got it ?????

          • José

            Well, I certainly “got it” that the rule of law seems awfully unimportant in your world. We conservatives disagree with that sort of unprincipled, situational, ad hoc spastic governing. But different strokes, I reckon.

          • Jose, I do not want to ignore your important fact.

            Help me understand how withholding state funds to a state institution is “meddling in federal immigration law”. This is about a state dealing with a state school.

            Would you feel the same if the school was providing a sanctuary for other criminals?

            Do you disregard the legality of all borders or just federal borders?

            When you referenced “bigots” was that a self reference? Isn’t a bigot someone who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions? Maybe that is just your code word for conservatives. A word you use to demean and discredit a group of people.

          • José

            I wish you really did want to address the point. Why didn’t you?

            1. Making changes to funding of schools is just fine when it’s done for the proper reasons. But this case is not about a state government dealing with a state issue. It’s a state government misusing its true responsibility (adequate funding of public schools) to coerce folks to change their words and actions relative to a federal issue (immigration laws). That’s not the governor’s responsibility, and he was not invited to assist in any way, especially with a heavy handed tactic like this. “Meddling” is a gentle word.

            2. I fully support the state enforcing appropriate STATE laws in a reasonable way. (“Reasonable” because if the enforcement was perfectly strict there would be quite an uproar and a good deal of it would be from folks who have an inflated sense of entitlement.)

            I think we both know that the rest of what you said ain’t a serious attempt at meaningful discussion.

          • You have a belief that you can not logically back up without showing your true character.

            It is obvious that you support illegal entry into this country.

            You may not like the fact that the state has the right to control it’s entities. That does not change the truth.

            Dismissing is a sign of weakness. Man up and have a real discussion.

          • José

            Thank you.

            Thank you for not embarrassing yourself with a disingenuous refutation the idea that Abbott is irresponsible. That’s the main point I’ve been articulating, and which the rest of y’all have been pretty well ignoring all along. As a matter of principle conservatives tend to frown on the practice of government officials misusing their office by claiming powers that just aren’t theirs. Heck, GOPers have raising quite a ruckus for years about President Obama using executive orders to keep things going in the face of a do-nothing Congress. What Abbott threatens to do is so much more. That’s hypocrisy for you.

            And thank you for not offering some lame justification of Abbott’s blustering in the cause of public safety or some such. We both know that’s nonsense. Whatever duty that the governor has to protect the people of Texas, he is perfectly empowered to go forth and do so. But seriously, it’s nuts to pretend that the problem is students who are undocumented immigrants. Those folks keep a low profile. No, if Abbott really wanted to make campuses safer he would crack down on things like alcohol and firearms, and he would target arrogant young men with a heightened sense of entitlement who consider themselves largely above criticism. Look at who causes property damage and physical assault and I bet you’ll find a disproportionally large number of frat boys and scholarship athletes. If you’re worried about preserving the peace then think: more DREAMers, fewer Manziels.

            So if you have a cogent argument to put forth, amigo, go ahead. But if the best you can do is insults, fabrications of what was said, and evading difficult truth then run along and play with the other children. This is a place for grown up discussion. (And please ask your teacher to explain again the difference between “it’s” and “it’s”.)

      • Yolanda E M

        The fact that Abbot is governor, not dictator or god should be a hint: he on his own cannot take any funding away from universities. It takes approval by both the House and Senate in Texas, an there are a LOT of important voices who would/will challenge him. Besides, being a sanctuary campus only means that ICE will not be allowed to enter the campus and start questioning students on their legal status. Therein is the problem: who are they going to target, the ones they think “look illegal”? what does that even mean? you could be thought to “look illegal”, how do they or anyone know you’re not? because of your supposed logical rhetoric? think again.As for your “drivel” that “It’s an embarrassment to us Texans who still hold traditional values and honor the principles of law on which this country and state were founded…”….ummmm, you mean the same values and principles of law that allowed mostly anglos to cheat the rightful owners (most of the Mexican and Spanish) of their properties in Texas? THAT type of traditional values and principles of law? right…a bit hypocritical, no???

        • Kay

          Get over yourself Yolanda. Go back to mexico is you are not happy here.

          • Jed

            I can prove myself a racist in three posts. Can you beat that?

            Oh, just did it in two? Nice.

    • Leigh Andrews

      There is federal law that requires law enforcement to cooperate with ICE in enforcing immigration law. in return for federal law enforcement funds. Police are expected to check to see whether ICE wants them, much as they check to see whether someone who has been arrested has any other warrants..One could argue that the potential loss of federal law enforcement funds is sufficient cause to deny funding to schools that declare themselves to be sanctuaries for illegal aliens, particularly when you consider that there are clawback provisions that allow the federal government to reclaim the money for a period of years, denting the state budget quite a lot when the money has to be repaid in a lump sum. .

      I’m old enough to remember the commercials shown on television in the 1960s that told all aliens to register their address with the post office every January. This stopped in 1972 or so.

      • José

        Local and state police cooperate with federal ICE. Cool. Understood.

        But the subject was whether Gov. Abbott has the authority to punish—and that’s precisely what it is—a school just because the folks who comprise the institution decided to make a symbolic statement.

        Those are two very different things. Despite the attempted “one could argue” bit, which is not in any way convincing.

        Furthermore it’s kind of silly to float the idea that Abbott is somehow justified because of fear of the Feds. Look, the state government of Texas has thumbed its nose at the Feds for a lot less reason than these schools want to do. Shoot, Texas is insanely proud of saying no to Washington. Now they’re going all wobbly-kneed because of this? No sir.

        • Leigh Andrews

          How symbolic is making a school a “sanctuary”? Will the college prevent law enforcement from arresting illegal immigrants who reside in campus housing should President Trump elect to cancel DACA and use the information collected to prosecute the “dreamers” and refer them for deportation?

          Perhaps “fear of the feds” is a poor motive. In addition to loss of law enforcement funding and potential clawback of law enforcement funding already received for 10 years previously, for a school to declare itself a sanctuary campus also risks the loss of Pell grants, federal student loans, and the ability of faculty to compete for federal research funds, just to name a few possibilities. This is something that might be able to be done with a presidential executive order.

          Texas does offer the governor a line-item veto, so Governor Abbott does have the authority to deny funding to a sanctuary college, subject to override by the legislature.

          • José

            Those are good questions. Maybe you and Abbott can find the answers by talking with the students and educators about how they want to run their own school. Instead of getting offended right off the bat and making rash threats.

            If Abbott has the authority to slash funding for something like this then he he could do the same for any sort of arbitrary reason. Anything. That should bother you deeply. And if it doesn’t, then think a minute about how you would feel if a different governor exercised such awesome powers, a governor who was a total nutcase and incompetent con man who managed to get elected on a platform of phony populism and then threatened the world some erratic nonsense. Similar things have happened.

          • Leigh Andrews

            There have been constitutional questions raised about past line-item vetoes that Abbott has made, but to date have not been litigated. Like it or not, to deny funding to a college or other state organization that calls itself a sanctuary organization or for any other reason, appears to be within his powers, subject to override by the legislature. Knowing this might spur interested citizens to lobby to amend the state constitution to remove the line-item veto. The governor’s line-item veto authority is outlined in Article 4, Section 14 of the Texas Constitution.

            It would be interesting to see what would happen should Abbott decide to deny finding to sanctuary campuses. would the override be 90% of the legislature or would it be a lot closer, possibly upholding the veto? A two-thirds majority is required to override the line-item veto.

          • José

            And you continue to avoid the real issue, that Gov. Abbott is threatening to use the power of his office to punish people simply because he feels like it. And that’s wrong, regardless of whether he can get away with it.

            The governor of Texas has many defined responsibilities. Meddling in federal immigration law isn’t one of them. The governor of Texas can sign legislation and veto legislation to allocate funds to support public schools, not to extort them for unrelated matters.

            Look, if you think it’s fine for Abbott to treat the state budget as his personal political slush fund just say so. But let’s not pretend that his actions are at all consistent with the true purpose of his job as defined by the Texas Constitution, nor the conservative principles of republican governance.

          • Leigh Andrews

            Does the governor of a state have NO law enforcement responsibility? In your view, he is obligated to stand idle, knowing that the law has been violated, despite the obligation of state and local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officers. I disagree with that view, and think it proper that he offer the universities an incentive not to harbor illegal immigrants.

          • José

            Apologies for being blunt but that’s a ridiculous and misleading question. OF COURSE the governor is supposed to administer and enforce the law, specifically STATE law. And in certain situations one can imagine the Feds asking for assistance from state and local authorities. But that doesn’t describe this case at all, now does it?
            The real “crime” here isn’t anything related to state business. It’s not even supposed violations of federal law, current or future. No, the problem is Abbott’s ego. He’s insulted that the state schools won’t bow to his demands, and he proposes to use an unrelated aspect of his executive powers to beat them into submission. In the name of freedom and personal responsibility and small government, no doubt.

        • Leigh Andrews

          What you view as symbolic is a violation of the law as it is written. at least at the federal level, even though the laws have not been enforced. What I believe is that the governor has the power under the Texas Constitution to deny funding to the school, though that is not the end of the story. Even if the veto is upheld, I would expect the school to challenge the governor’s decision in court, seeking an injunction to restore their funding en route to having the law overturned.

          The Electoral College has voted, and Donald Trump will be the next president. I did not expect anything to happen with regard to the governor’s decision in the balance of Obama’s administration. I am a lot less optimistic that Trump will cut funding to sanctuary cities and states or act quickly to revoke DACA than prior to the election.