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National Association of College and Univeristy Attorneys & Rutgers Law School

Publication Title

The Journal of College and University Law





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When Donald Trump, a businessman and reality television personality with anti-immigrant views, was elected President of the United States in November 2016, thousands of students, faculty and staff at many colleges and universities around the country implored their institutions to affirmatively declare themselves sanctuaries for undocumented students. Enjoying support both from the estimated 200,000 undocumented university students and other stakeholders, the movement gained quite a bit of momentum, but many contentious battles also have occurred. According to the author’s empirical analysis, only twenty of the more than 5,000 institutions of higher education in the United States have adopted the sanctuary campus designation.

This piece explores the legal and policy implications of the “sanctuary campus” designation and the balance between the goal of the designation and the effects. In concluding that the sanctuary movement should focus on promoting policies and programs, this article argues: 1) there is a lack of clarity about the term “sanctuary,” 2) to the extent that there is agreement about the term, universities already are de facto and de jure sanctuaries and efforts to affirmatively adopt the designation may undermine the presumption, and 3) there are some persuasive political and other

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