SIU President Randy Dunn announced Friday the public university system will not adopt a resolution to create sanctuary campuses for undocumented students, according to a university news release.
The announcement came after university officials formed a special committee to review proposals within the resolution, which was crafted by student leaders and sent to administrators in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to deport millions of immigrants after he assumes office.
The resolution was determined to be a university system action that could “put all of its students at risk” if it conflicted with federal law.
During his campaign, Trump vowed to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012 that gave temporary amnesty to those illegally brought into the U.S. as children. The president-elect has the authority to revoke any executive orders issued by the current administration once he takes office on Jan. 20.
In a November letter, student leaders demanded “an unequivocal, public declaration of our university’s support for and protection of DACA students, undocumented students,” those at risk of losing legal status, and the families of all those potentially affected.
But, in Friday’s news release, Dunn said, “the concept of a sanctuary campus is not clearly defined in any legal sense, adding that the designation suggests that the university would be willing to violate the law.”
“At the same time, there are key principles that we believe are important during this uncertain period,” he said. “We will continue to do everything we can within the scope of established law to support our students.”
The resolution was crafted by special committees within the Graduate and Professional Student Council and Undergraduate Student Government that are designated to handle issues of campus diversity and inclusivity. In December, members of GPSC voted to revise language in the original document because some thought it could be harmful or otherwise unhelpful to the students it was supposed to protect.
Jon Howard, a member of GPSC, said during a meeting last month the resolution provided a “false sense of security” and would not prevent federal officers from coming to campus and arresting illegal immigrants.
Some also expressed skepticism as to whether Trump would follow through.
“We’re sitting here building off the fears and emotions of things that might not even happen,” Howard said at the meeting.
In a recent interview with Time, the president-elect alluded to the possibility of substituting DACA with another means of allowing those under its protection to stay in country, saying only that he would “work something out” that would “make people happy and proud.”
University officials cited potential consequences of the resolution as being non-compliant with federal law, arguing that doing so could have turned off the spigot of federal student grant and loan money, according to the news release.
“It does make sense,” USG President Jared Stern said during a phone interview Friday. “I’m not saying their decision was necessarily right or wrong, but it does make sense in terms of sustaining the longevity and stability of the university.”
“That does not mean we don’t support the DACA program and our students … but when it comes to defying the federal government, I don’t think we expected the university to do that,” he added.
Fewer than 60 of the university system’s 30,000 students are protected under DACA at its Carbondale, Springfield and Edwardsville campuses.
Although university officials declined to breach federal law, they said they plan to uphold existing protections afforded under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which keeps some personal and academic information sealed.
Additionally, Dunn, interim Chancellor Brad Colwell, and SIU-Edwardsville Chancellor Randy Pembrook were among 600 university leaders in the country to sign a petition advocating for the continuance of the DACA program.
“The SIU campuses have been trusted destinations for all of our students and we maintain an enduring commitment to providing access to students traditionally underrepresented in higher education,” Dunn said.
Campus editor Bill Lukitsch can be reached at 618-536-3326 or at [email protected]
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