University President Anthony Monaco released a statement last week pledging enhanced support for undocumented students at Tufts University. Monaco said that the university will refuse to provide information on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) undocumented students or assist in the enforcement of immigration laws. This commitment holds as long as it is legally permissible, meaning the university will not comply with investigations unless served with a subpoena, warrant or court order. The statement affirmed that the Tufts administration will continue to monitor federal law as it affects Tufts policy regarding undocumented students. In his statement, Monaco also demonstrated a personal commitment to undocumented immigrants, declaring that he has also signed a statement calling for the continuation and expansion of DACA.
Tufts’ enhanced commitment to undocumented students is part of a larger national movement of college students calling upon their universities to establish sanctuary campuses. The concept of sanctuary campuses emerges from sanctuary cities, which serve a similar purpose — to refuse to comply with federal officials in an effort to protect undocumented immigrants in the community. This recent movement is a direct outgrowth of President-elect Donald Trump’s election, as the presidential candidate has vowed to engage in mass deportations and reverse certain executive orders such as DACA. The push for sanctuary campuses has gained support in part because many universities have accepted and welcomed undocumented students on their campuses prior to the recent election.
Since April 2015, Tufts has demonstrated a commitment to accepting undocumented students. Monaco stated that the university would treat undocumented immigrant applicants as domestic students, regardless of whether or not they had DACA status. This provided certain benefits to undocumented students, most notably the extended ability to receive financial aid. Through this decision, Tufts committed to providing financial aid through its own funds because the federal government does not provide aid for undocumented students.
While Tufts has been active in protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants, recent events compelled students to demand more of the university. Monaco’s pledge of continued support and protection of undocumented students follows continued efforts from faculty and students alike.
Monaco’s statements should be applauded for being measured but spirited. His promises met many of the demands in the petition for sanctuary status, including noncompliance with federal immigration officers and the provision of legal counsel to undocumented immigrants.
Monaco’s assigning the sanctuary campus label to Tufts would have been premature. At this point, it is not entirely clear what a designated sanctuary campus would entail, and what a Trump presidency will mean exactly for undocumented students. Moreover, assigning a sanctuary campus label could place “a target on our backs,” as was stated by UIJ member Olivia Dehm in response to the president’s choice to omit the sanctuary label in a Dec. 1 Daily article. Monaco is doing what is in his power to ensure that undocumented students feel cared for, safe and protected on this campus. The label of sanctuary campus is not as important as a continued commitment to undocumented students and the guarantee to uphold the inclusive values of a liberal arts education — these values are the core of Monaco’s statement and are what matter most in our university community.