Sanc­tu­ary cam­pus

Our view: There is good rea­son for col­leges to re­as­sure im­mi­grant stu­dents

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ODNE -

We would be among the first to say that some of the re­ac­tion to Don­ald Trump’s vic­tory on col­lege cam­puses has been a lit­tle over­wrought. Cor­nell held a cry-in. The Uni­ver­sity of Texas-Austin stu­dent gov­ern­ment set up a “ther­apy wall” for stu­dents up­set at the elec­tion’s out­come. A dorm at the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia — Mr. Trump’s alma mater — cre­ated a “breath­ing space” re­plete with cats and a puppy.

But the talk of cre­at­ing sanc­tu­ary poli­cies on cam­pus, as a num­ber of higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions in Mary­land and else­where have done, is another mat­ter. This isn’t about “cam­pus cry­ba­bies,” as some con­ser­va­tive crit­ics have called the dis­traught mil­len­ni­als. It is about real con­cern on the part of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant stu­dents about whether the pres­i­dent-elect’s prom­ises to mas­sively step up de­por­ta­tion ef­forts could wind up tar­get­ing them. They would, af­ter all, be easy to find.

Pub­lic el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary schools do not, as a mat­ter of rou­tine, know whether their stu­dents are in the coun­try legally or not. They are bound by a1982 Supreme Court de­ci­sion to pro­vide an ed­u­ca­tion re­gard­less of le­gal sta­tus, so they don’t ask. But par­tic­u­larly as stu­dents ap­proach col­lege age, their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus be­comes an is­sue.

Some have ef­fec­tively an­nounced their pres­ence to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment by ap­ply­ing to the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, or DACA, which Pres­i­dent Barack Obama es­tab­lished by ex­ec­u­tive or­der in 2012 — and which Mr. Trump has sug­gested he will re­verse. Cur­rent DACA guide­lines in­clude some mea­sure of pro­tec­tion to as­sure those who ap­ply and are oth­er­wise law-abid­ing that their in­for­ma­tion will not be shared with im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment of­fi­cials, but that, too, could change if Mr. Trump wishes.

Oth­ers have ef­fec­tively in­formed the col­leges or uni­ver­si­ties they at­tend that they lack le­gal sta­tus. In 2012, Mary­lan­ders voted 59 per­cent to 41 per­cent to up­hold a law al­low­ing cer­tain un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants to re­ceive in-state tu­ition at pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. In or­der to re­ceive the ben­e­fit, stu­dents have to demon­strate that they meet cer­tain cri­te­ria — they must have grad­u­ated from a Mary­land high school, their par­ents must have paid in­come taxes for a pe­riod of time, they must have com­pleted a cer­tain amount of course­work at a com­mu­nity col­lege, etc. They fill out a form pro­vided by the Uni­ver­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land and sub­mit it to the in­sti­tu­tion they plan to at­tend. Pri­vacy pro­tec­tions for stu­dent records would gen­er­ally pre­vent in­sti­tu­tions from shar­ing that in­for­ma­tion with im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials, but un­der the cir­cum­stances, it is more than ap­pro­pri­ate for col­lege pres­i­dents to re­mind stu­dents of that rule and as­sure them that it will be fol­lowed.

A num­ber of cam­pus lead­ers in Mary­land have done so in re­cent weeks, and some schools have re­it­er­ated the uni­ver­sity sys­tem’s poli­cies against vol­un­tar­ily part­ner­ing with im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties on en­force­ment ac­tions or pro­vid­ing stu­dent records for such ac­tions. (They would, of course, have to do so if im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials had a war­rant, sub­poena or other court or­der.)

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz’s foray into the is­sue this week was prob­a­bly more sym­bolic than sub­stan­tive — the Demo­crat said he had or­dered county po­lice not to as­sist in ef­forts “to iden­tify oth­er­wise law-abid­ing stu­dents from our col­lege cam­puses that would sub­ject them to de­por­ta­tion by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties,” but the in­volve­ment of lo­cal law en­force­ment in im­mi­gra­tion is gen­er­ally quite lim­ited. Only two lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies in Mary­land have en­tered into mem­o­ran­dums of un­der­stand­ing with fed­eral of­fi­cials to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws, and Bal­ti­more County’s Po­lice Depart­ment is not among them.

Even so, there is value in the county ex­ec­u­tive mak­ing such a pub­lic pro­nounce­ment. It helps re­in­force the idea that lo­cal po­lice are there to pro­tect pub­lic safety, not to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws, a cru­cial dis­tinc­tion with­out which many im­mi­grants (doc­u­mented or not) would be re­luc­tant to co­op­er­ate in in­ves­ti­ga­tions or to come for­ward when they are vic­tims of crime. If any­thing, Mr. Kamenetz should have gone fur­ther and not lim­ited his state­ment to stu­dents on col­lege cam­puses but ap­plied it to im­mi­grants in Bal­ti­more County gen­er­ally.

Was there a hint of pol­i­tics in Mr. Kamenetz’s chal­lenge for Gov. Larry Ho­gan, a Re­pub­li­can, to join him in re­as­sur­ing im­mi­grant stu­dents? Sure. But this state voted clearly and con­vinc­ingly four years ago to pro­vide ben­e­fits for im­mi­grant col­lege stu­dents with­out le­gal sta­tus, and it’s im­por­tant for lead­ers on cam­pus and be­yond to re­it­er­ate that com­mit­ment.

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