Any decision to designate Southern Illinois University campuses as “sanctuary campuses” would be “consistent across the system,” President Randy Dunn told the Board of Trustees this month.
Two Carbondale student groups have asked university administrators to designate all three university campuses as “formal sanctuaries” for undocumented students. The university system includes campuses in Edwardsville, Carbondale and Springfield. In a letter, the students asked administrators to adopt policies that protect students enrolled through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, undocumented students and others who might be at risk of losing their documented status.
The Southern Illinoisan reported that the students are afraid President-elect Donald Trump will put his campaign rhetoric on immigration into practice. The students groups said in their letter that they fear loss of legal status and deportation for foreign students.
Students have staged protests in recent months to pressure their schools into designating campuses as sanctuaries. The requested designation at SIU would restrict how much the university cooperates with authorities on turning over or exposing undocumented students.
Similarly, some U.S. cities have moved toward designating themselves as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. Cities like New York and San Francisco, for example, employ policies that provide certain protections to undocumented immigrants.
The SIUE system president told trustees his administration is examining the benefits and downfalls of the designation. Interim SIU-Carbondale Chancellor Brad Colwell wrote in a letter to the student groups that the concept is complex and “brings with it a number of legal questions.”
SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook was unavailable for comment on Wednesday, but university spokesperson Doug McIlhagga said the university had 392 international students enrolled in fall 2016. The number of students enrolled through the DACA program at SIUE was not immediately available.
There are 20 students enrolled through the DACA program at SIU-Carbondale.