Fresno Pacific University will not become a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented students, despite calls from more than 700 professors, students and alumni to block the government from any potential deportations under President-elect Donald Trump.
“Supporting and reassuring our students is the kind of thing a Christ-centered university like Fresno Pacific does every day. But declaring us a ‘sanctuary campus’ would likely actually be counterproductive,” Fresno Pacific President Richard Kriegbaum said in a statement Thursday.
“We do not bring people into our country illegally. Bad public policy and practice have accomplished that. But we are committed to serve those God brings to us, and we support wise public policy that helps us correct the effects of bad public policy in a society in which everyone benefits by respect for the rule of law that promotes liberty and justice for all.”
A petition created last week asked Kriegbaum to withhold information regarding students’ immigration status and refuse compliance “with any immigration raids or efforts to deport.” The petition also called for more support and financial aid for students who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – a program that gives people brought to the U.S. illegally as children a temporary reprieve from deportation.
We must model the principles that we teach, which for us are based in biblical principles that require us to respect the legitimate authority of the government.
FPU President Richard Kriegbaum
The petition says shielding undocumented students is the Christian thing to do. “Our peace and prosperity is tied to the peace and prosperity of our undocumented brothers and sisters at FPU,” it states. “Our faith is intricately linked to our response to those in need, requiring and compelling us to provide protection for the vulnerable and shelter for those who wander.”
While Trump has pledged to terminate DACA and end sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants, his full immigration plans are still unclear. Kriegbaum pointed to statements made by Trump this week that show his stance on young undocumented immigrants has softened.
Colleges across the country – including Fresno State – have vowed to protect undocumented students, but many have stayed away from the “sanctuary” label. Harvard University announced this week that it would not become a sanctuary campus, saying the label has no legal significance and could further endanger undocumented students.
The biblical mandate to advocate for those who are marginalized is substantial.
FPU petition signed by professors, students
Kriegbaum said Friday that Fresno Pacific, where nearly 40 percent of students are Latino, will do everything it can to protect undocumented students within the law.
“We will be as creative as we can in that process and seek wisdom, but we certainly don’t want to do something that would have unintended consequences of damaging the people that we’re trying to serve,” he said. “The rule of law is really, really important. It’s not just something that one invokes when it serves your purposes.”
In November, leaders of the University of California, the California State University and the California Community Colleges systems wrote an open letter to Trump urging him to continue DACA.
“They are constructive and contributing members of our communities. They should be able to pursue their dream of higher education without fear of being arrested, deported, or rounded up for just trying to learn,” the letter said of the state’s more than 300,000 DACA recipients.
Fresno State President Joseph Castro released a statement after the election, offering counseling services and other information to concerned students.
“Some heated comments made during the campaign have caused members of our campus community to experience stress and genuine fear about the future,” Castro wrote to students in November.
“At Fresno State, we value diversity of thought and are committed to fostering an inclusive climate where everyone and every voice matters. One way in which we can do this is by providing opportunities for our community to have conversations about this and other topics of concern.”
Kriegbaum said he has not been officially presented with the petition, but said he has discussed the issue with professors who are leading the efforts and expects the conversation to continue.