While expressing support for DACA students Tuesday, American University President Sylvia Burwell refused to declare the campus a “sanctuary,” saying it “could be counterproductive.”
When President Trump announced on September 5 that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program after a six-month delay, allowing Congress to legislate its fate, many college and university presidents released statements condemning the decision, Burwell included.
“The institution does not have the authority to exempt itself from federal immigration law.”
In memorandum to the AU community the same day, Burwell reiterated “AU’s support for undocumented students,” but while she wrote that AU “will continue to offer [DACA students] protection to the full extent allowed by law,” she declined to name AU a “sanctuary campus.”
She argued that “asserting such a status would have no basis in the law,” and point out that, “the institution does not have the authority to exempt itself from federal immigration law.” Burwell even speculated that “claiming such status could be counterproductive” and result in “greater risk for our students.”
While there is no universal definition of a “sanctuary” campus, schools that make such pledges generally enact provisions intended to support DACA students by refusing to cooperate with immigration officials unless legally compelled to do so, offering legal and/or financial support, and in some cases offering them in-state tuition or other forms of financial aid.
Although the AU memorandum pledged to refrain from voluntarily assisting immigration officials and offered financial aid and legal assistance, Burwell maintained that the school will continue to eschew the “sanctuary campus” label.