The Bastions of Lawlessness: Sanctuary Campuses and Lexington
By Ben Whedon '18
The longstanding hole in the nation’s southern border has forced adjacent municipalities and institutions to develop effective methods for dealing with the tremendous influx of migrants from Mexico and further south. While some have made an honest effort to uphold the rule of law and comply with federal immigration law, others have chosen to disregard the authority of the national government and allow illegal immigrants safe haven.
To be clear, all illegal immigrants are criminals by definition. The very circumstance of their entry into the nation is an affront to the rule of law. In contrast to the letter of the law, these sanctuary cities proudly declare their disdain for any semblance of security and allow these criminals free residence in their lands. Many leaders in these cities claim that this policy is necessary to ensure the cooperation of such individuals in legal investigations. This premise is faulty, as it encourages disdain for the rule of law in a misguided attempt to bolster its support.
It would be an understatement to say that the election of President Trump has caused anxiety within these communities. With the appointment of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to the post of Attorney General, it seems these cities will soon face additional pressures to relent from their defiance. Sessions has vowed to prosecute sanctuary city leaders, and proposed to abolish all federal funding for non-compliant municipalities. Should he follow through on these promises, the sanctuary city will likely perish.
With the impending collapse of sanctuary cities, it falls to academics to lead the fight for anarchy and against the rule of law, a mantle they have enthusiastically accepted. Several universities have already publicly declared their intent to obstruct the operations of immigration and customs officials on their premises in order to protect undocumented students. Among the most notable thus far are the University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan University. While the former will only permit government officials access with a court order, the President of Wesleyan University issued a statement that the administration “will not voluntarily assist” in any capacity.
The city of Lexington has a long history of settling refugees from foreign nations within its borders, albeit through legal means. This, in combination with the somewhat leftist political tendencies of the large academic community, raise speculation about the future of immigration policy within Rockbridge County. At first glance, it seems any such act, by the city or by the University, would be a merely symbolic gesture. Lexington can hardly be said to have a notable population of illegal immigrants. To declare ourselves a sanctuary campus might appear to have little practical effect other than to drawing the ire of the national government.
Regrettably, this is not the case. The 2012 Obama executive order known as DACA brings relevance and weight to this debate in our own community. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy allows illegal immigrants who entered the country with their parents to apply for a two-year deferred status to avoid deportation. Those accepted are not provided with legal status but are allowed a work permit. The election of President Trump, however, casts a shadow over the future of this policy and those affected. This new national leader has developed a penchant for repealing the executive orders of his predecessor. Despite statements that he will “show compassion” towards DACA immigrants, there remains strong reason to believe that Obama’s policy will either be scrapped or at least seriously amended.
Such an action could potentially alter the deportation status of thousands across the nation and indeed, within our student body. It is a fact that there exist within the student body individuals who reside in the US under DACA status. I will neither divulge their numbers or identities, for the sake of their privacy and security. Moreover, I cannot discuss the source of this information, as to do so would be to reveal the identities of at least one of these individuals. In any case, neither of those pieces of information are relevant to the topic at hand. This is, of course, saying nothing of the fact that W&L admissions permits the acceptance of illegal immigrants. What is relevant is the choice the school will have to make should the DACA policy be scrapped. The fate of those students will depend on that decision.
The course we will take as a community is currently unclear. In the wake of President Trump’s controversial halt on travel from several Middle-Eastern nations, President Dudley issued a statement condemning the policy, declaring it incompatible with the core values of W&L. The decided condemnation of the action prompted me to inquire into his positions on other immigration issues. I had the opportunity to discuss the possibility of a DACA repeal and W&L’s potential response with him through email. Though Dudley declined to speculate on the likeliness of repeal, he offered this statement:
“Washington and Lee complies with the law. We also provide legally permissible support to all members of our community, regardless of their country of origin or immigration status. We will continue to be guided by a commitment to our core values, which prohibit discrimination, and to our educational mission, which is advanced by the presence of students and scholars of diverse nationalities and religious faiths.”
From this statement, we may take comfort in the probability that W&L will not become a full-blown sanctuary campus any time soon. Dudley’s comments, however, suggest that the University is indeed aware of the issue and has no qualms about supporting students of insecure immigration status. Both possibilities remain open. In the meantime, we as a community and as a student body must decide how we will respond to either choice the University may make.