The giant California State University system will not cooperate with most federal efforts targeting undocumented students under a new Trump administration, but the nation’s largest four-year system of higher education will reject the term “sanctuary” for its 23 campuses, a top official said Thursday.
The chancellor of the CSU with more than 425,000 students emphasized his pledge to make campuses a safe environment for its students — including those living in the country illegally — but he declined to declare the CSU campuses as “sanctuaries.”
In light of the Nov. 8 presidential election of Donald Trump, who has called for the deportation of millions of people in the country illegally, many have been pushing to have CSU campuses deemed “sanctuaries” to ensure that they will not be plucked out of classrooms by immigration authorities.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White, in an open letter sent Thursday to students, faculty and staff, reiterated remarks he made before the Board of Trustees earlier in the week that the university will not enter into agreements with immigration authorities and that campus police will not honor immigration hold requests. But he declined to deem the campuses as “sanctuaries.”
“Understandably, there is some interest to declare campuses as oases or sanctuaries — as places that serve as a refuge to completely protect its community,” White wrote. “While I understand and deeply respect the sentiment behind this interest, we as a public university cannot make that promise unilaterally.
The term `sanctuary’ has several interpretations and is in many contexts ambiguous. If we were to use this term it would be misleading to the very people we support and serve,” he wrote.
“Consequently, to address immigration matters, we intentionally adopted a flexible systemwide set of policy guidelines grounded in our value-based principles. This approach provides each campus with the opportunity to implement a policy reflecting its unique campus climate, while assuring conformity in certain key systemwide principles. Our policy is both clear and substantive, and removes the CSU from the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”
According to White, the CSU policy on immigration states that:
— the CSU “will not enter into agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies, Homeland Security or any other federal department for the enforcement of federal immigration law”;
— university police will not honor immigration hold requests; and
— university police “do not contact, detain, question or arrest individuals solely on the basis of being, or suspected of being, a person that lacks documentation.”
The CSU system has about 470,000 students. Although it does not track students’ immigration status, the Los Angeles Times reported that about 10,000 CSU students received waivers for fall 2015 through state legislation that allows students in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition.
Trump has said he will look to quickly deport as many as 3 million people in the country illegally, primarily those convicted of serious criminal offenses. He has said as many as 11 million immigrants should be forced from the country.
White’s outline of CSU policy largely echoed comments made this week by Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck, who said the department would maintain its arms-length distance from immigration authorities.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education approved a resolution reaffirming its designation of campuses as safe zones for undocumented students. It bars immigration authorities from entering campuses without prior approval of the superintendent or district attorneys. The board approved a similar resolution in February, but the latest action went a step further by extending protection to district paperwork and documents about students and staff.
— City News Service