Establishing a Sanctuary Campus at NYU: An Explainer

Why is declaring NYU a Sanctuary Campus important?

President Hamilton has stated that NYU will not be a Sanctuary Campus. This is a moment when institutions of higher learning that declare themselves Sanctuary Campuses will be distinguished from those who do not. Universities that undertake this proactive step will lead the collective stand of educators against discriminatory, isolationist policies that harm the individuals they target, our universities, and the United States. The presence of NYU in New York City and at sites around the world calls for a strong and unequivocal statement. As a “private university in the service of the public good,” NYU has the opportunity to be a global leader.

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. These steps, however, do not go far enough in protecting our students and staff and do not provide the full range of protections outlined below.

What does Sanctuary at NYU mean?

By declaring NYU a Sanctuary Campus, the University pledges:

● 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.

Who does Sanctuary benefit?

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. Concretely, establishing NYU as a Sanctuary Campus also assists those specially targeted for exceptional treatment by providing resources, succor, and legal assistance.