According to the PEW Research Center, over 200.000 US college students are undocumented immigrants. Some of these students qualify for DACA and some don’t. Those who have received DACA protections have nothing to fear from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the primary US immigration enforcement agency. It is the undocumented students who do have something to fear, however, that have motivated the sanctuary campus movement.

Considering the negative stereotypes associated with undocumented immigrants that prevail throughout large swaths of American society, many people would be surprised that just about half of all undocumented immigrants between the ages of 18 and 24 have attended college or university at some point. This figure is only marginally lower than the 71 percent attendance rate of US students in the same age group.

What is a Sanctuary Campus?

The term “sanctuary campus”, inspired by the sanctuary city movement, refers to any college or university that implements policies to protect students and/or faculty who are undocumented immigrants.

Following are some of the policies that have been proposed or actually implemented by self-described sanctuary campuses or other immigrant-friendly campuses:

  • barring ICE officers from campus unless they possess a valid warrant.
  • instructing campus police not to enforce immigration law against members of the campus community;
  • refusing to share information about faculty or students’ immigration status with ICE absent a court order; and
  • implementing a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on student or faculty immigration status.

The American Association of University Professors has endorsed the sanctuary campus movement.

Self-declared Sanctuary Campuses

The following colleges and universities have either declared themselves sanctuary campuses or have taken public stances that identify them as the functional equivalent of sanctuary campuses:

Many more colleges and universities have expressed support for policies that are supportive of undocumented immigrants, whether or not they are DACA-eligible, and the general attitude on most campuses is friendly and supportive of undocumented immigrants.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do sanctuary campuses risk their federal funding by defying the federal government on immigration issues?

Generally not, because the actions of sanctuary campuses do not conflict with their legal obligations. It is no federal offense, for example, to refuse admission to ICE officers without a warrant. It is always possible that the Trump administration will attempt to impose additional burdens upon schools; however, there are constitutional limits on what can be demanded.

Are schools required to share information on student immigration status with immigration authorities?

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of student information. FERPA prevents schools from releasing information about student immigration status to ICE or any other government agency without a court order or subpoena.

FERPA’s protections are not absolute, however. Schools have certain information-sharing obligations under programs such as the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Participants in these programs, however, typically entered the US on visas, although they may no longer qualify for the visas they entered on.

Does ICE need the warrant to conduct law enforcement activities on college or university campuses?

Yes, they do in most cases. Warrants can be easy or difficult to obtain, depending on the students’ “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the area that ICE officials seek to enter. Searching a student’s dorm room would require much stranger justification, for example, then walking through an outdoor campus commons area. There are also exceptions, such as the “hot pursuit” exception”, in which ICE officers do not need a warrant.

Read more about how the supreme court supports DACA Dreamer.

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