On Feb. 8, an Alabama House committee approved a bill that would block state funding to Alabama public colleges and universities that adopt a “sanctuary” policy.
Although the meaning of a “sanctuary campus” is not clear, most colleges adopting the policy implement two clauses: they refuse to turn over information regarding undocumented students or faculty unless they are facing criminal charges, and they also provide confidential counseling and legal services for such students.
In the past few weeks, colleges all over the United States are adopting this policy so that they have some legal front in protecting their most vulnerable members: the undocumented ones.
The “Americans First Act” is a four-page bill sponsored by Rep. Phil Williams, as a response to student movements at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, attempting to make UAH a “sanctuary campus.”
The bill says if colleges, any other state agency or subdivision of the state fails to follow federal or state immigration laws or fails to cooperate with state or federal authorities, either by declaring themselves “sanctuary” campuses or otherwise, they would be subject to lose their funding.
According to Rep. Patricia Todd, this is a “solution in search of a problem” because Alabama does not have a “sanctuary university.”
While it seems like an innocuous law (it might seem obvious to expect universities to follow the laws), it creates more problems than solving the nonexistent ones.
Donald Trump, president of the United States, has promised, among other things, to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and end an Obama-administration program that grants some young people in the United States without papers temporary relief from the threat of removal.
This puts many young people who are now in colleges in a vulnerable position. Universities are now not allowed to create sanctuaries without threat of losing funding.
Meanwhile, many universities all over the country, through the initiation of the students, are working to provide safer zones for international and undocumented students.
The restriction of funds from such universities portrays an unwelcome picture of Alabama and its people.
Even though colleges in Alabama cannot declare “sanctuary” statuses, the students can work to make these institutions true sanctuaries by resisting attacks on immigrants, religious minorities and other vulnerable populations.
All students, regardless of their nationality, can take a stance to create inclusive and unrestricted learning environments.