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The movement to declare institutions of higher learning sanctuary campuses “for students who face potential deportation under the new President-elect” appears to be losing momentum. The University of Illinois, New Mexico State University and others have declined to go out of their way to pick a fight with the new administration by declaring their campuses off-limits to immigration enforcement.
It might fizzle out even faster if administrators and media take the petitions presented to them at more than face value. A closer look at a Minnesota college petition reveals more issues with undocumented signatories than undocumented students on campus.
At the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, it turns out Scooby Doo, Larry Bird, John Stockton, and Michael Scott have signed on as sanctuary campus supporters. A check of 1,600 or so signatories on the petition submitted to the schools’ presidents this week found several evidently phoney sign-ups on the roster. The monikers of the cartoon character, NBA superstars and actor, along with their graduation class dates from the two Central Minnesota Catholic universities, showed up on a petition to “to immediately develop a protocol for making itself a sanctuary campus” in order to “protect the most vulnerable members of our Benedictine community.”
As of this writing, the bogus names were still listed online in support of an overheated petition that would make even Michael Scott blush.
The President-elect has promised to put some of our current students and future students, who want to attend CSB/SJU, at unprecedented risk. Students who are dreamers, undocumented students and DACA recipients feel threatened. Now is the time to act – not with words or symbolic gesture but with a concrete and tangible response. We write in solidarity with other students and workers across the country who have called upon their own schools to take similar action.
The revelation raises questions about the veracity and reliability of other names on this list, which apparently anyone can join online. One alumnus who combed through the names said there appear to be numerous undocumented petitioners.
The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University provide the latest example of schools whose administrators clearly take the possibility of losing millions in federal funding more seriously than the pressure from students and faculty.
The leaders of the private Minnesota schools paid lip service to the concerns expressed in the petition, but ultimately played it safe. In fact, news accounts indicate the schools took it a step further by acknowledging that campuses enjoy no special legal privilege that exempts them from following immigration law.
Mary Hinton and Michael Hemesath wrote to the campus community Thursday to say they support the principle behind a petition they received asking for sanctuary status. But they wrote that they have “no legal ability to set ourselves apart from the laws of our state and federal government.”
And doing so could put state and federal financial aid support at risk, they wrote in a letter also signed by Prioress Michaela Hedican of St. Benedict’s Monastery and Abbot John Klassen of St. John’s Abbey.
It’s worth noting St. John’s and St. Benedict don’t have an official police force that could theoretically be called on to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement agents in the first place. St. John’s security concerns are referred to the Department of Life Safety Services, while St. Benedict handles those issues through a Department of Security.