‘Sanctuary Campuses’ considered throughout Georgia

Design by Tony Wu

In the wake of last year’s presidential election, multiple colleges in Georgia have expressed interest in becoming “sanctuary campuses” as a means of protecting undocumented immigrants studying there, sparking conflict with the Board of Regents (BOR) as well as state legislators.

Emory University is one of the colleges in question, having received a petition from hundreds of students and faculty in November 2016 which requested that administrators consider making Emory a hospitable and safe environment for undocumented students; among other things, the petition requests that Emory supply legal support for students who need assistance with immigration law, as well as that it work with local police to provide protection from federal immigration officials.

Administrators from Emory responded with a press release in which they reaffirmed the institution’s support for admitting and providing financial aid to students currently protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program.

Furthermore, the administrators — among them, President Claire Sterk and Emory’s Dean of Campus Life — stated that they would be “evaluating” the request and meeting with students to determine “how best to serve those in [their] community
whose immigration status puts them at risk” in the near and uncertain future.

Emory media relations employees later gave a statement to FOX 5 news reiterating that they follow and will continue to follow federal law, and that they utilize private funds to give undocumented students scholarships based on need and merit.

Other private institutions in Georgia, such as Agnes Scott College in Decatur, have expressed similar support for accepting undocumented students.

Armstrong State University, a public university in Savannah, saw controversy in December 2016 after leaders at a faculty senate meeting allegedly discussed the possibility of becoming a sanctuary campus contingent on the possible support of other University System members. Armstrong State and other public universities, including Tech, must abide by BOR policies for undocumented students.

Tech is one of five institutions barred from admitting illegal immigrants; many other universities, such as Armstrong State, may admit those students but are not permitted to charge them in-state tuition, as the state has established that DACA is not enough to establish legal residency.

In a February 2016 ruling, the state Supreme Court rejected an appeal of these laws, sparking protests on many campuses (including Tech’s) organized in part by Freedom University. In December the same year, the Board of Reagents issued a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calling any policies which could conflict with federal law “unacceptable” and reiterating that all colleges are expected to follow state and federal laws.

State Representative Earl Ehrhart, who serves as Chairman of the Higher Education Subcommittee of the state House Appropriations Committee, has said he will introduce a bill aimed at deterring sanctuary practices by withholding state funding from
participating schools.

“Lawbreaking 101 is a new course, I guess, at some of these schools … It’s a simple equation: If you don’t follow the law, the state funds are not going to follow you,” Ehrhart said in an appearance on “Fox and Friends” in December 2016. “It’s a very simple equation for most [of Ehrhart’s constituents]: Don’t spend my tax money on these whining, crying students who can’t accept the reality of the laws in this country.”

In Emory’s case, this amounts to approximately $100 million in payments to their facilities division, as well as HOPE eligibility for their students. The state legislative session opened on Jan. 9, and though Ehrhart has not yet introduced said legislation he has stated that there is at least some degree of legislative and public support for such a move.

Kasim Reed, mayor of Atlanta, has pledged his support for DACA students and stated his intention to protect immigrants in Atlanta from hate crimes through the rule of law, but has not used the term “sanctuary city.”