Joining Columbia University, and a series of schools nationwide, New York University announced in a letter this week that the college would be a sanctuary campus for undocumented students and would not share their immigration status with federal immigration officials.
University President Andrew Hamilton sent a letter to students and faculty this week laying out NYU's policies regarding undocumented students under a Trump administration, as first reported by Politico. While Hamilton's letter never used the phrase "sanctuary campus," it also promised the school would protect the immigration status of its current students in a number of ways. School security officers will continue to not ask a student's immigration status according to the letter, and Hamilton also wrote that the school doesn't give "permission" in the form of warrants or subpoenas to any federal agency "for targeting undocumented members of our community or for gathering information on them."
Hamilton wrote that he signed a letter with other college presidents asking the Trump administration to continue to support DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival), the Obama administration's executive order that allowed certain undocumented immigrants to remain in the country if they were brought here as children, and also wrote that:
University financial assistance to non-citizens (documented and undocumented) is independent of federal financial aid programs and will continue regardless of changes in national policy.
Tomas Cruz, the president of NYU's DREAM Team, an organization dedicated to supporting undocumented students, told Gothamist in an email that the letter was "a great starting point. But there is still more to be seen, especially when Trump is in office." He also shared thoughts from Pia Iribarren, a NYU grad student on DACA and former member of the DREAM Team, who said that while the letter was a good start, still too vague for her taste.
"What happens if NYC is pressured into no longer being a sanctuary city?" Iribarren asked. "Is NYU just going to give in too? Or will it still protect us since it's a private university and not tied to NYC financially the way CUNY is? Admins need to be clearer about this."
Cruz characterized the mood of undocumented students on campus as one of "frustration, fear, anger, and a heightened sense of vulnerability," with a number of students worried about their families getting broken apart or being sent back to live in a country they haven't lived in years.
Juan Calero, president of NYU's Latinos Unidos Con Honor y Amistad (LUCHA) told Gothamist that the campus's Black and Brown Coalition had met shortly before the letter was sent, and sent the administration a statement about the protections and support for the school's undocumented students they were hoping to see. "The general student sentiment is that we are content with what was sent," Calero wrote in an email, and that the coalition sees the letter as a reflection of what they sent the administration.
In addition to NYU and Columbia, schools across the country are making statements about their status as sanctuary schools. Donald Trump's alma matter, the University of Pennsylvania, announced that they wouldn't allow federal immigration officers on campus without a warrant, after students and faculty petitioned the administration to become a sanctuary campus. The president of Iowa's Drake University also announced the school would be a sanctuary campus. Movimiento Cosecha, an organization devoted to winning "permanent protection, dignity and respect" for the country's undocumented immigrant population, has called for national campus walkouts in support of campuses declaring themselves sanctuaries.
Two campuses in Texas staged walkouts in support of their schools becoming sanctuary campuses, as Governor Greg Abbot has said he'll cut off funding for any state universities which do so (it's unclear if Abbot would be able to follow through on his threat). State lawmakers in Georgia are also looking into how they can punish any schools who declare themselves sanctuaries. The president of nearby Princeton University wrote that while the school would work to protect its undocumented students and that he signed the letter to Trump supporting DACA, his opinion is that there's no legal basis for a sanctuary campus.
Since Donald Trump's election, there's also been talk of New York City's status as a sanctuary city. Despite President-elect Trump's threat to cut off federal funding to cities that continue to act as sanctuaries, Mayor de Blasio has said the city will continue to protect its population of undocumented immigrants from federal immigration officials.