Bill Would Strip Pennsylvania’s Sanctuary Campuses of State Funding


A Pennsylvania state representative introduced a bill that would strip state colleges that don’t comply with immigration laws of their federal funding.

Sanctuary campus policies have become an increasingly popular demand from students at private colleges around the country. Sanctuary status has been adopted by Pennsylvania colleges such as the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore.

According to a Facebook note from State Representative Jerry Knowles, who is sponsoring the bill, a sanctuary campus exists when a school’s administration blatantly rejects federal authorities on matters of immigration.

A sanctuary campus exists when the school’s administration adopts policies to refuse to allow federal authorities on campus without a warrant; directs campus law enforcement not to communicate, coordinate or cooperate with federal authorities regarding undocumented individuals on campus; and/or refuses to share information about undocumented students with federal agencies unless presented with some form of legal process.

Sanctuary status has been adopted by Columbia University, DePaul University, and the public University of California, system amongst several others institutions of higher education.

Both Penn State University and Bucknell University in Central Pennsylvania refused to adopt sanctuary status for their campuses, despite aggressive protest campaigns from their students. Bucknell University President John Bravman, writing in an email to his campus community, argued that adopting sanctuary status as a university is impractical and runs counter to the the goals and purpose of institutions of higher education.

Although some schools have adopted the label, which on its face may be reassuring, the term “sanctuary campus” lacks a universal definition and offers no legal protection. A common theme underlying the term seems to be a representation that a self-described “sanctuary” institution will prohibit immigration authorities from entering campus unless required to do so by a court-issued warrant. In practice, however, such a prohibition is not feasible. By their very nature, university campuses are open environments where students, faculty, staff and visitors come and go freely. I am confident that “sanctuary” schools in large urban centers, for instance, are not erecting checkpoints along their many miles of streets and sidewalks in order to determine the employment of each individual who crosses onto and through their campuses. In fact, stops of that nature would seem to run counter to our identity as an institution of higher learning.

Penn State President Eric Barron issued similar remarks, arguing that no university has the authority to reject federal immigration policies.

If used, it could imply that our university has the authority to exempt our campus from federal immigration laws, when in fact no university has that authority. It also implies incorrectly a university is able to provide special protections to undocumented individuals beyond the law.  That also is not the case. …

We have strong protections and multiple services in place at Penn State.  The sanctuary term provides no additional protection, yet lacks clarity and implies protections that do not exist.

Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about social justice and libertarian issues for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at


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