Investigative News: University opts not to be labeled a ‘sanctuary campus’

Kathryn Nicolai, Investigative News Editor

University President John Bravman sent an email on Jan. 19 to the University community addressing “sanctuary campuses,” a topic that has gained traction in the past two months as an outcome of the recent presidential election. Bravman stated that the University did not need the label of a sanctuary campus to reaffirm the University’s dedication to defending the privacy of community members.

The main reason outlined in Bravman’s email for refraining from designating the University a sanctuary campus is the lack of a universal definition and real legal protection.

“Bucknell does not have a policy regarding the term ‘sanctuary status,’ and to the best of my knowledge, it never has,” the University’s General Counsel Amy Foerster said.

“A common theme underlying the term seems to be a representation that a self-described ‘sanctuary’ institution will prohibit immigration authorities from entering campus unless required to do so by a court-issued warrant. In practice, however, such a prohibition is not feasible,” Bravman said.

Prohibiting immigration authorities on campus would, however, have negative implications such as the University’s participation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which requires immigration authority to conduct on-site compliance reviews.

The term “sanctuary campus” is an offshoot of sanctuary cities, which currently include New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Philadelphia, and many others. The policies in each of these cities differ; however, most sanctuary cities vow not to prosecute illegal immigrants for violating federal laws.

In an executive order issued on Jan. 25, President Donald Trump vowed to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities that protected illegal immigrants. The order has already met backlash; San Francisco was the first city to file suit against the order on Jan. 31, and on Jan. 25, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh vowed to protect the vital diversity of the city by any means necessary, including sheltering their threatened populations in City Hall, if need be.

Federal and state conflict over laws related to illegal immigrants has been prevalent for years. Only an hour east of campus, Hazleton, Pa. gained national attention in 2006 for trying to pass anti-immigration ordinances. Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta wrote the 2006 Illegal Immigration Relief Act that would have fined landlords and revoked licenses from businesses that hired and harbored illegal immigrants. A legal battle reached the Supreme Court twice and ended with Hazleton paying approximately $1.4 million in fees to lawyers fighting against the ordinance, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

More than 600 higher education institution presidents, Bravman included, signed a statement in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA was implemented in June 2012 under the Obama Administration and grants certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility to receive a work permit. Many fear that the future of DACA is threatened by the new administration.

All 13 of the University’s peer group institutions including Lafayette College, Lehigh University, and Villanova University signed the statement in support of DACA. These universities also opted not to define themselves as sanctuary campuses. According to The Lafayette student newspaper, Lafayette College’s President Alison Byerly also declined using the term sanctuary campus because “it’s a not very well-defined term that is not associated with specific acts.”

“The vast majority of colleges and universities across the country have opted not to adopt that label. Bucknell does, however, have policies that secure the privacy of our community members, as detailed in President Bravman’s email,” Foerster said.

Universities that have labeled themselves as sanctuary campuses include Portland State University, Reed College, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and Wesleyan University.

“Reed will not assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the investigation of the immigration status of our students, staff, or faculty absent a direct court order,” Reed President John R. Kroger said on Nov. 18, 2016, according to Reed Magazine.

These policies mirror the University’s policies on privacy, but the labels of being a sanctuary campus differ. This is also apparent in a statement published on Portland State University’s website signed by President Wim Wiewel.

“Portland State University will not facilitate or consent to immigration enforcement activities on our campus unless legally compelled to do so,” the statement said.

According to the Yale Daily News, President Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania stated in an email on Nov. 30 that the campus would ‘stay’ a sanctuary campus aligning with the policies of its home city Philadelphia.

In detailing the position that the University holds in not defining itself as a sanctuary campus, Bravman noted the University’s existing policies regarding the privacy of community members. Student educational records are Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protected information that a third party cannot access without a properly issued subpoena or warrant. However, directory information is not made private unless a student puts in a request to the University.

In the event that immigration authorities or another third party asked for these records, the University “would provide the student with notice of the subpoena prior to producing the requested information unless doing so would violate a court order,” Bravman said in his email.

Director of International Student Services Jennifer Figueroa confirms these policies, stating that the University “abides by strict privacy policies, including FERPA, which limit our release of any non-directory information without proper documentation, permits, etc.”

Bravman also noted that the University does not keep records identifying undocumented students and that the University’s Department of Public Safety is not involved in immigration enforcement activities.

“The University does the most it can to ensure that Muslim, undocumented, and DACA students receive the same financial support even if the federal government pulls funding (i.e. University matches federal dollars with private funds if funding is withheld),” Sam Jacobson ’17 said of his views of the term sanctuary campus. “The University should prioritize the privacy of students and require due process before turning over information to immigration or other federal officials.”

Jacobson was pleased with Bravman’s email explaining University policy regarding support for undocumented and DACA students.

“Having that information publicly available to current and future students is valuable,” Jacobson said.

However, Jacobson also believes that the email was contradictory in nature.

“Rejecting the name but accepting the spirit of the demand does not make much sense,” Jacobson said.

An email from the University’s Campus Notification Center went out Jan. 31 to inform students that a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle was parked on campus because representatives were participating in the University’s career fair, and not for alternative immigration reasons. Foerster affirmed that she has not seen any requests from immigration authorities during her time at the University.

“In my four years at Bucknell, the University has not received any requests to participate in any federal immigration enforcement activities, and I am not aware of any immigration enforcement activities occurring prior to that time. As President Bravman has said, Bucknell will not participate in such activities or provide student information unless required to do so by a subpoena or warrant,” Foerster said.

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