Baylor University joined the mushrooming list of American college campuses eager to declare sanctuary campus status. A handful of graduate students from the religion department petitioned to defy federal and state laws to provide a safe haven to students, faculty, and community members living in the United States illegally.
Already, the online petition, “Make Baylor University a Sanctuary Campus,” has around 1,350 signatures. It went up on Monday and is addressed to Interim President David Garland plus other Baylor officials. While its authors cite Christian values as the foundation for sanctuary campus policies, the private Baptist university continues to crawl out from underneath a mound of high profile sports-related sex scandals, including the firing of a newly assistant coach who was arrested on a prostitution charge.
The petition states: “Baylor’s profession of the Christian faith commits it to the formation of a hospitable, just, and truth-telling community, especially for the sake of its most vulnerable members, in whom Christians discern the face of Christ.”
As part of their commitment to “collaboratively plan the implementation of sanctuary initiatives that will enable Baylor to fulfill its Christian commitments to hospitality, justice and reconciliation, and truth,” the petitioners demand the university refuses to collect or release immigration status data on any students, professors, or employees. They also want administrators to prohibit cooperation with immigration investigations or deportations, “to the fullest extent possible, including denying authorities access to university property.”
Signees vow to create an office for non-citizen students and increase on-campus services like free legal counsel and financial aid for illegal immigrant students, plus allocate funds to assist with the financial and legal repercussions of any federal immigration policy changes. They charge Baylor to take “a leading advocacy role among Christian universities” and partner with others “to defend the dignity and rights of non-citizens” through the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), implemented by President Obama in 2012 via executive order.
The petition calls for implementing a scholarship program that gives “special preference” to “displaced students” from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, the seven terror-ridden travel-banned nations named in President Trump’s recent executive order now on hold. Petitioners want Baylor to publicly embrace “refugees, migrants, and religious and racial/ethnic minorities.”
Tom Millay, one of the petition’s authors, insisted the document was “theologically driven,” not politically motivated. He perceived the executive order was “contrary to our Christian heritage,” he told the Baptist Standard.
Another campus group, Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), dedicated to the founding principles of American exceptionalism, Christian ethics, and the best of Baylor tradition, shared a different perspective with Breitbart Texas. They oppose the sanctuary campus petition and “do not condone the actions of those who attempt to circumvent the law simply because it does not fit their ideology,”said Jathan Young, Baylor YCT chairman. He told Breitbart Texas they reject “any attempt by progressives to arbitrarily dismiss federal immigration laws.”
University officials responded to the petition Wednesday, according to the school newspaper, the Baylor Lariat. Administrators acknowledged strong campus support for students and professors impacted by the recent executive order, noting they closely monitor the situation to “continue to provide personal guidance, support and encouragement for our students, staff and faculty who are impacted directly” with their Center for Global Engagement.
On January 30, Baylor top brass reacted to the executive order travel ban. “Until further notice, we advise any student, faculty or staff member from a country specified in the order to consult with our Center for Global Engagement before traveling outside the United States,” Garland commented in a statement.
In December, Texas Governor Greg Abbott vowed to cut funding for any state campus if it establishes sanctuary status. “Texas will not tolerate sanctuary campuses or cities,” he tweeted. It is unclear how this applies to Baylor as a private institution.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.