Many young people brought to this country at a young age by their family are now enrolled in colleges. Should those colleges be allowed to protect them from the immigration authorities — and should they be banned from public funding if they do?
There are no official statistics of how many undocumented students are enrolled in American higher education, but about 65 thousand undocumented students graduate from American high schools annually.
So-called “sanctuary campuses” started appearing shortly after President Trump’s election, when many colleges and universities began openly declaring their refusal to cooperate with immigration authorities attempting to deport or question undocumented students. Many of these public universities also offer in-state tuition to undocumented students, a perk previously reserved for legal citizen students residing in the institution’s state.
This approach was modeled after the “sanctuary cities” or “sanctuary states” approach taken by a number of left-leaning municipalities or states.
Many of these students meet DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or “dreamer” status, an Obama-era initiative currently tied up in the courts that would legalize almost a million undocumented children who were brought to the the U.S. as minors. Other students don’t qualify for DACA status, such as ones who arrived as adults or overstayed their visas.
What the bill does
The No Funding for Sanctuary Campuses Act would cut federal funding for any school that declares itself a “sanctuary campus.” It would also require the Department of Homeland Security to keep a public list of such campuses. The bill would go into effect 90 days after enactment.
It was introduced in January 2017 by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA50), and numbered H.R. 483.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill would both save money at a time of budget deficits, while upholding the rule of law.
“It’s by no means unreasonable to expect the nation’s higher learning institutions to follow the law the same way we expect states and localities to abide by the law,” lead sponsor Hunter said in an interview with the_Washington Examiner_.
“If a school wants federal money, an open declaration that it’s a sanctuary should disqualify it for federal support. It’s free to do that, of course, but there should be a consequence in the form of withheld federal funding — it’s that simple.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that sanctuary campuses protect students, especially those who are in this country undocumented through not fault of their own because their parents brought them here so young. Opponents say most such students are working for their degrees, paying taxes, and not committing crimes.
“With DACA, our students and alumni have been able to pursue opportunities in business, education, high tech, and the non-profit sector; they have gone to medical school, law school, and graduate schools in numerous disciplines,” wrote a letter signed by hundreds of American university presidents. They are actively contributing to their local communities and economies.”
“To our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded,” the letter continued. “This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity. America needs talent — and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, are already part of our national community.”
(Not all of the letter’s signatories run sanctuary campuses, though many of them do.)
Odds of passage
The bill has attracted 21 House cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
A previous introduced in 2016 attracted two Republican cosponsors but never received a committee vote.
However, some Republican-led states are taking action on their own. Gov. Gregory Abbott of Texas, the nation’s second-most populous state, announced in 2016 that he would cut public funding to sanctuary campuses.