In recent days, a group of Georgetown students has petitioned the university to become a “sanctuary campus,” joining a national trend of students asking that their universities take action in providing aid to undocumented students. On November 23, a petition began circulating on campus stating the official request that Georgetown become a sanctuary campus, including provisions that provide additional financial aid to undocumented students and prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on campus without a warrant.
The petition also contains various provisions in addition to the requests for undocumented students, asking that the university, as The Hoya notes, “designate an all-gender bathroom in each building, institute cultural competency training for all Counseling and Psychiatric Services staff, increase the budget for the Academic Resource Center’s service of first-generation students, establish a course in American Sign Language and support mandatory teach-ins for professors on how to respond to racism in the classroom.”
On December 2, students participated in a solidarity walk in support of the sanctuary campus petition. The walk was organized by a student group on campus, called the Georgetown University Sanctuary Campus Movement. Students walked from Red Square to President DeGioia’s office to deliver the petition in person. The group’s requests come days after President Degioia sent out a campus-wide letter affirming that the university “will protect undocumented students to the fullest extent of the law.”
The actions taken by Georgetown reflect a similar movement occurring at universities across the country. Students on dozens of college campuses are demanding that their administrations designate their universities as sanctuary campuses. Already, several college presidents have indicated that they will make the official designation, including Wesleyan University, Reed College, and Portland State University. Notably, Portland State University is a public university, tying it more closely to state and federal rules and regulations than private universities.
Yet, many critics have questioned the legal authority of colleges and universities to designate themselves as sanctuary campuses. The president of Princeton University, Chris Eisgruber, has indicated upon consulting with several immigration lawyers that “this concept has no basis in law, and that colleges and universities have no authority to exempt any part of their campuses from the nation’s immigration laws.”
Similarly, legislators and government officials in several states are considering legal action against sanctuary campuses. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has vocally opposed sanctuary campuses and has vowed to cut state funding to any Texas school that designates itself as such. In Georgia, state lawmakers have considered drafting a similar proposal to that of Texas, in response to a recent effort at Emory University to designate itself a sanctuary campus.
Following the election of Donald Trump, many universitites are uncertain what the future holds for immigrant student. Trump has called for the immediate deportation of criminals who are here illegally and the termination of federal funding to sanctuary cities. If sanctuary cities lose federal funding, sanctuary campuses could likely face similar scrutiny. These considerations and others are on the minds of administrators across the country, including at Georgetown, as universities consider the merits of a sanctuary campus designation.