AU President: 'Sanctuary' label 'could be counterproductive'

Sandor Farkas
Collegiate Network Fellow

  • While expressing support for DACA students Tuesday, American University President Sylvia Burwell refused to declare the campus a “sanctuary,” saying such a move “could be counterproductive.”
  • Burwell did express support for DACA students, even offering legal and financial assistance, but insisted that "the institution does not have the authority to exempt itself from federal immigration law."
  • While expressing support for DACA students Tuesday, American University President Sylvia Burwell refused to declare the campus a “sanctuary,” saying it “could be counterproductive.”

    When President Trump announced on September 5 that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program after a six-month delay, allowing Congress to legislate its fate, many college and university presidents released statements condemning the decision, Burwell included.

    "The institution does not have the authority to exempt itself from federal immigration law."   

    [RELATED: IU, NYU reject 'purely symbolic' sanctuary campus designation]

    In memorandum to the AU community the same day, Burwell reiterated “AU’s support for undocumented students,” but while she wrote that AU “will continue to offer [DACA students] protection to the full extent allowed by law,” she declined to name AU a “sanctuary campus.”

    She argued that “asserting such a status would have no basis in the law,” and point out that, “the institution does not have the authority to exempt itself from federal immigration law.” Burwell even speculated that “claiming such status could be counterproductive” and result in “greater risk for our students.”

    [RELATED: VIDEO: Sanctuary campus supporters willing to ignore other laws]

    While there is no universal definition of a “sanctuary” campus, schools that make such pledges generally enact provisions intended to support DACA students by refusing to cooperate with immigration officials unless legally compelled to do so, offering legal and/or financial support, and in some cases offering them in-state tuition or other forms of financial aid.

    [RELATED: Student gov approves $10K 'emergency fund' for DACA students]

    Although the AU memorandum pledged to refrain from voluntarily assisting immigration officials and offered financial aid and legal assistance, Burwell maintained that the school will continue to eschew the “sanctuary campus” label.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SFarkas48





    Sandor Farkas

    Sandor Farkas

    Collegiate Network Fellow
    Sandor Farkas is a Collegiate Network Fellow at Campus Reform. Prior to starting this fellowship, he was a Tikvah Fellow. Farkas earned a degree in history from Dartmouth College, where he was editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth Review. Farkas also serves as an officer in the Virginia Army National Guard.
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