Students Petition for a ‘Sanctuary Campus’

College Commits to Protecting Students in Danger of Deportation



Over 400 students, faculty and community members stood in front of Old Chapel as part of the nationwide “walk-out” in support of the “sanctuary campus” movement.

Middlebury College moved to increase its support of current and prospective students who are living in the country illegally, according to a statement released by Laurie L. Patton over Thanksgiving break, in an emphatic rebuke of President-elect Donald J. Trump’s promises to end illegal immigration.

The statement on Nov. 23 came a week after about 400 students, faculty and staff staged a “walk-out” in front of Old Chapel protesting Trump’s proposed mass deportations and urging administrators to take direct action.

In the statement, Patton said that the College will “not voluntarily share” student records with federal or state law enforcement officials in deportation efforts.

“We will take every legal measure to support our undocumented students as we continue to live up to our principles of educational access and inclusivity,” Patton said.

The College will continue to provide pro bono legal assistance to students with questions about their immigration status through the office of International Student and Scholar Services. Dan Berger, an immigration lawyer in Massachusetts, will come to campus for two days to host an information session and hold individual meetings with students. The information session will be Dec. 2 in Dana Auditorium at 5 p.m. and individual appointments will be schedule the next day between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Curran & Berger LLP, the law firm where Berger is a partner, advises clients on legal routes under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an executive immigration policy that allows certain immigrants to the United States who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. The federal government has estimated that the DACA program provides temporary resident status to about 728,000 young people.

Kemi Fuentes-George, professor of Political Science, speaks at a rally outside Old Chapel on Nov. 16, 2016.

Beginning with next year’s applicants for the class of 2022, the Office of Admissions will evaluate applications from prospective students living in the country illegally under its need-blind admissions policy, which applies to all domestic applicants. The College will commit to meeting the full demonstrated financial need, as determined by Student Financial Services, of students admitted under this effort.

The Office of Admissions has reviewed applications in the past from prospective students living in the country illegally, but did so on a need-aware basis. About a dozen such students are currently enrolled at the College, according to an estimate given by Bill Burger, vice president for communications.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a memorandum to its agents in 2011 stating that certain enforcement actions should not occur at “sensitive locations,” including schools, hospitals and churches, without prior approval. The policy, which is still in effect, specified arrests, interviews, searches and surveillance as off-limits. But the memorandum specifically stated that obtaining records and serving subpoenas are not covered by the policy.

The president has wide latitude in enforcing immigration law, meaning that ICE’s policies can change depending on how the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, sets its priorities. Trump is expected to select a secretary for this agency who shares his hard-line stance on immigration.

Lawyers for the Obama administration used this executive authority as legal basis for delaying deportation of certain immigrants, including children and those without criminal records. But the next president would have the same authority to reverse that course.

Trump’s campaign website lists ten steps under immigration. He pledges to “end sanctuary cities” and “immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties” — referring to DACA and DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. Trump promised repeatedly on the campaign trail to reverse President Obama’s executive orders granting temporary resident status to certain classes of immigrants. The plan also says that Trump plans to triple the number of ICE agents employed by the government.

“This is what it means to have laws and to have a country,” the plan reads.

In a 60 Minutes interview on Nov. 20, President-elect Trump said he planned to immediately deport all living in the country illegally who “have criminal records” after his inauguration next January. When pressed on his campaign pledge to deport even those without criminal records, Trump said that after securing the border, his administration would make a “determination” on the remaining immigrants, who number about 11.3 million according to Pew Research Center.

When asked if the College would obey a federal court order requiring cooperation with ICE officials, Burger said the College “will always comply” with court orders.

“We are not above the law,” he said.

Some have doubted that Trump will focus his deportation efforts on nonviolent children of immigrants who are studying in the U.S.

“We find it hard to believe that Trump will suddenly revoke work cards and DACA from 750,000 high achieving students,” said lawyers at Curran & Berger LLP in a notice on the firm’s website. “Perhaps more likely is that he could stop DACA extensions. Moving to deport these students would be another radical step — if they just lose their DACA status, that would be awful, but we can advise them as we did pre-DACA.”

But student organizers of the walk-out protest on Nov. 16 are wary to believe speculation that Trump will moderate his agenda.

“We look forward to continuing conversations with President Patton and other members of the administration to talk about the ways that the college can continue to work in solidarity with students on campus and members of our community,” said Austin Kahn ’17.5, one of the organizers.

Organizers believed that the College’s response to the walk-out was a necessary step in protecting students who are in danger of deportation and in alleviating the concerns of community members.

“In our view, Laurie Patton simply responded to the huge public pressure demonstrated by both the walk-out itself and the letter signed by well over 1,500 students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Kahn said. “While we were definitely excited to see so many people willing to take time out of their daily activities, we would expect nothing less during a time when there exist real and unmistakable threats to the wellbeing of marginalized people on our campus and in our country more generally.”