Last month, President Richard Englert signed a widely distributed letter along with nearly 500 other college and university presidents, expressing support for the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
DACA, created by executive order in 2012, allows undocumented young people who meet certain requirements to apply to remain in the United States for a renewable two-year period.
However, President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to reverse Obama’s executive orders on immigration, which would seemingly include reversing DACA. Senators are hoping that the Trump administration will not use the DACA registry to find people to deport.
In response to concerns about the future of their undocumented students, several higher-education institutions — locally, the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College — have gone a step further and declared themselves “sanctuary campuses,” meaning that they will not refer students to federal immigration authorities that could round up students for deportation.
Temple has not declared itself a sanctuary campus, nor has a university leader publicly expressed support for Mayor Jim Kenney’s policy making Philadelphia a “Fourth Amendment” or “sanctuary” city. The university should change course on both of these fronts.
“Temple provides access to superior education for committed and capable students of all backgrounds,” a university spokesman wrote in a statement, also mentioning the letter supporting DACA. “As a public institution, Temple complies with legal requirements in the maintenance and disclosure of information regarding members of its community. The university takes great care in protecting individual privacy under the law.”
It is good for undocumented students that Temple has expressed support for DACA. But if the policy is abandoned in a Trump administration, more must be done to ensure that undocumented students can come to Temple and feel safe, and enroll here with realistic expectations of completing a degree without being deported or punished.
And that’s why Temple ought to follow Penn and Swarthmore’s lead. As private institutions, the decision was likely easier: they are less in need of federal funding than Temple, a semi-public university. The funding pressure is intense. For example, the president of New Mexico State University denied the prospect of becoming a sanctuary campus on the grounds that doing so would jeopardize the university’s federal funding.
Trump claims he will cut funding that goes to sanctuary cities. Will he cut it for sanctuary campuses too? It wouldn’t be very presidential to deny federal money to hardworking, degree-seeking students.
Making Temple a sanctuary campus in the face of such pressure would show that the university truly cares about providing a safe, just, equitable and welcoming environment for the undocumented.