Why do we need to declare Sanctuary?
President Hamilton has stated that NYU will not be a Sanctuary Campus. We believe that the ever-growing assaults on members the NYU community should make him reconsider his initial decision. In these dangerous and uncertain times, NYU must rise to the challenge and make an unambiguous statement regarding our opposition to discriminatory and isolationist policies that harm the democratic values of both the United States and the university. Declaring ourselves a Sanctuary Campus would show the world that NYU rejects the politics of isolationism and fear. Moreover, as the flagship university in one of the most diverse and dynamic cities in the world, NYU has a special responsibility to show courage and leadership when it comes to standing with the vulnerable communities that make New York City so strong. History will judge NYU harshly if the administration fails to offer a clear and strong response during this unprecedented political times.
We acknowledge and appreciate President Hamilton’s November 29, 2016 letter on the post-election safety of undocumented students and staff, as well as his January 29, 2017 letter addressing recent executive action and its impact. We further commend the formation of the NYU Immigrant Defense Initiative as an important first step in providing access to much-needed legal services for noncitizen students and staff. We are heartened by President Hamilton’s recent announcement that NYU will join other universities in the legal fight against the unconstitutional and immoral Muslim Travel Ban. These steps, however, do not go far enough in protecting our students and staff and do not provide the full range of protections.
Declaring Sanctuary status would make more concrete our commitment to keeping NYU an open university to the world and would send an important symbolic message of support to our students, staff and community members. Sanctuary benefits the entire NYU community by making an institutional declaration that the University will stand by a set of common values that will not be debased by any state of exception. By becoming a Sanctuary Campus, the University demonstrates solidarity with the most vulnerable among us who are being targeted by the new administration, and situates itself as an institution where we can proudly belong to. Concretely, establishing NYU as a Sanctuary Campus also assists those specially targeted for exceptional treatment by providing resources, succor, and legal assistance. The presence of NYU in New York City and at sites around the world calls for a strong and unequivocal statement.
In declaring Sanctuary at NYU, what are possible concrete protections?
By declaring NYU a Sanctuary Campus, the University would pledge:
- Not to voluntarily share any information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or other federal agencies to the fullest extent possible under the law;
- Not to allow ICE physical access to any buildings or land owned or controlled by the university to the fullest extent possible under the law;
- To train campus security staff to respond to federal agents seeking access; and instruct security staff to refuse to participate in the actions of any agency that deals with immigration regulation;
- To prohibit campus security from inquiring about or recording any information regarding an individual’s immigration status;
- To prohibit all housing discrimination based on immigration status or religious affiliation, and provide emergency housing for noncitizen students who cannot go home during academic breaks;
- To provide access to competent and expanded legal support for noncitizen, Muslim, and LGBTQ students and staff, those with undocumented family members, and others rendered vulnerable by federal, state, or city orders that contravene the University’s commitment to diversity, freedom, and equality;
- To expand access to financial aid for noncitizen students, especially those who might be affected by a repeal or change in DACA;
- To commit ongoing resources to create and sustain on-campus working groups to assess and address the evolving needs of undocumented students and staff, students and staff of color, students and staff with disabilities, LGBTQ students and staff, and otherwise marginalized students and staff.
- To distance the University’s investments from anti-immigrant measures by divesting from companies or funds that stand to profit from these measures, such as private prisons.
What are the possible costs?
It is impossible to know what the costs could be. The University will likely need to commit financial resources. Generally speaking, universities do not have to comply with governmental requests for records unless a subpoena or warrant has been issued; historically, sanctuary jurisdictions, including schools, have not been prosecuted for violating federal laws. At the same time, there are federal laws against obstructing investigations and “harboring” undocumented persons. It is also possible that sources of federal funding could be impacted depending upon the reach of the January, 25, 2017 Executive Order and other laws. We should not ignore these potential consequences, but we also should not let them deter us from demanding what is just.