In reaction to President-elect Trump's tough rhetoric about deporting illegal immigrants, a growing number of university presidents have pledged they will protect undocumented students, declaring their campuses "sanctuaries."
But a college can't legally protect students from immigration enforcement, wrote immigration law scholar Michael Olivas in an essay for Inside Higher Ed. To do so, he wrote, offers false hope to a very vulnerable population.
Feel-good actions and solidarity are fine and have an important place in the civil-rights narrative. But I do not hold out hope that the sanctuary proposals will make any genuine change or provide actual sanctuary -- whatever that empty vessel means to anyone on either side of the issue.
Yet Olivas, acting president of the University of Houston-Downtown, said he doubts there will be mass deportation efforts on the nation's college campuses. "In my years of teaching - and I follow both higher ed law and immigration law - I have never heard of a single - not one - student properly enrolled in college, who has ever been removed for an immigration violation," Olivas said in an interview with APM Reports.
Instead of making promises they can't keep, Olivas said, colleges - and lawmakers - need to work towards immigration reform.
"This is a long slog," he said. "It requires a combination of advocacy and service and litigation and research. And frankly, some service that gives proper information instead of holding out a hope to students who are very vulnerable that there is something they can do. If we just simply declare that you can't come on our campus, (that) is a false hope. I will not engage in it."
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