Universities Face Loss of Funding Over Sanctuary Campuses

kalerDonald Trump’s pledge to crack down on sanctuary cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul and roll back Obama’s executive amnesty orders for students, among others, has led to calls for sanctuary campuses across the country.

Many of the college students and faculty clamoring for such sanctuaries would be hard-pressed to explain what the designation means in practice. But that hasn’t stopped 1,500 from supporting a petition at the University of Minnesota to ban campus police from investigating immigration cases and help immigrant students facing deportation to lawyer up.

UOM President Erik Kaler released a statement that on the surface offers his  support.

“The University will stay true to its values and advocate for our undocumented students, international students and all members of our community,” Kaler said. “While it is too early to know what, if any, changes will be made to U.S. immigration laws after the new Congress and president take office in January, we will continue to provide information and resources to help all members of our community.”

Kaler’s statement may be more revealing for what he didn’t say, despite an attempt by student leaders to portray it otherwise in the campus paper’s coverage.

Minnesota Student Association President Abeer Syedah, who helped write the petition, said Kaler’s statement was the strong response the University needed.

The statement did not address the petition’s specific requests of the University, which included preventing the University of Minnesota Police Department from working with U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement agents and shielding international students’ personal information.

“It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the University to make a stance on a hypothetical,” Syedah said. “But if and when we start to see things that impose on the community, then I think it’s going to be important for very direct and very specific responses.”

In fact, the surge for sanctuary campuses has hit a brick wall in several states. The threat of losing billions of dollars in federal funding under a new administration appears to be providing a teachable moment on what’s truly at stake at several institutions of higher learning. Paying the bills for faculty and students who find sanctuary in six-figure salaries, Pell grants and federally funded research clearly Trumps other considerations at another Big Ten institution, the University of Illinois.

The University of Illinois will not label its three campuses as sanctuaries for immigrant students illegally living in the U.S., school leaders said Tuesday as they pushed aside pressure from faculty and others to make the designation.

…The university receives roughly $733 million annually in federal funding — about 13 percent of its $5.6 billion operating budget — that could be at risk if the university does not comply with immigration law, spokesman Tom Hardy said. But what would happen if there were some kind of federal crackdown on students who are not legal residents of the country isn’t clear, he said.

“There’s just a lot of unknowns and a lot of speculation. But what we do know is that we don’t want to put our institutions and our people at risk of not complying with laws,” Hardy said.tsu-sanctuary-campus-640x480

Other campuses have also decided paying a steep price for their political passions may not be worth the risk.

New Mexico State University decided last week that it would not declare its campus a sanctuary or try to ban federal agents from campus. But other schools have said they will try to protect immigrant students who lack legal status. Columbia University, which is private, plans to offer sanctuary as well as financial support, while the public University of California system says it will not assist federal immigration agents or hand over confidential records without court orders.

The American Council on Education, an advocacy group for colleges and universities, in a paper published this month advised caution regarding “sanctuary campus” plans. The paper noted that the idea of a sanctuary does not have “legal status that is recognized under federal law.”

State funding may also be in jeopardy in some states with Texas leading the charge.

 Gov. Greg Abbott vowed Thursday to cut funding for any Texas school that declares itself a “sanctuary campus.”

Abbott made the threat on Twitter in response to news that students at Texas State University are petitioning administrators to make the campus a “sanctuary for undocumented students, workers, and community members.” Such concerns have spiked following the election of Trump, who has promised to deport millions of people in the country illegally.

“Texas will not tolerate sanctuary campuses or cities,” Abbott said. “I will cut funding for any state campus if it establishes sanctuary status.”

The pragmatic decision reached by the University of Illinois and other campuses may turn out to be the most valuable education students get this semester.