Baylor University will not declare itself a “sanctuary campus” for people who immigrated illegally to the United States. The “sanctuary” term lacks specificity, and the school has standing legal obligations, interim President David Garland wrote in a statement Monday.
Garland’s statement came after more than 1,300 people signed an online petition urging senior administrators to “refuse to comply with immigration investigations or deportations to the fullest extent possible, including denying access to university property,” among other provisions.
“While we appreciate the heart of those who have signed the petition, I believe we can continue to support and care for our students, faculty, staff and scholars without creating a designation such as a ‘sanctuary campus,’ which has no specific meaning beyond what one assigns to it,” he wrote.
Many of the petition’s requests are already Baylor policy, Garland said. For one, federal privacy laws do not allow the school to reveal a student’s immigration status to enforcement agencies without proper authorization or legal authority, Garland said.
Whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials can request and get a student’s status is unclear, said Laura Lysen, a Baylor graduate student and petition co-author.
“We want to know (the policies) very specifically, because we’re interested in a whole platform of specific measures that we’re going to do to protect and support, as fully as possible, the students who are vulnerable right now,” Lysen said.
Garland will not comment further on the statement, a Baylor spokeswoman said.
In the statement, Garland wrote that Baylor’s Center for Global Engagement held an open meeting for international students to analyze President Donald Trump’s executive order barring people from seven countries from entering the United States.
A federal appeals court blocked the travel ban, but Trump has indicated a revised executive order is in the works.
Garland also has hosted a lunch at his home for Baylor students from the affected countries.
The “sanctuary campus” petition asks Baylor to condemn Trump’s immigration policy and grant free legal counsel and increased financial aid to students who are not U.S. citizens.
Lysen said her group is awaiting a more comprehensive response to the petition and a meeting with Garland. The petition was also addressed to Executive Vice President and Provost L. Gregory Jones, Vice President for Student Life Kevin Jackson and Vice Provost for Global Engagement Jeffrey Hamilton.
Petition organizers hope the university will put concrete policies behind its stated commitment to be a hospitable, safe and open space, Lysen said.
“We believe there’s a lot more that Baylor can say and can commit to in order to really give concreteness and power to those commitments that it has named,” she said.
Garland said administrators recognize the petitioners support Baylor’s diversity.
“I believe they have done so out of a commendable spirit of compassion,” he said.