College life in Philly

Amy Gutmann: Penn is a sanctuary campus and we’ll protect undocumented students

The president emailed staff and students today.

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Eugene Kim/Flickr

It’s official: the University of Pennsylvania is a sanctuary campus.

In an email to students and faculty at Penn, President Amy Gutmann expressed the university’s “commitment” to undocumented students.

“Penn is and has always been a “sanctuary” – a safe place for our students to live and to learn,” Gutmann said in the email. “We assure you that we will continue in all of our efforts to protect and support our community including our undocumented students.”

She further explained that the university would not permit ICE, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or Border Protection on Penn grounds unless those agencies come with warrants. Gutmann vowed that the university wouldn’t participate in information sharing requests without a “valid legal process.” While the term “sanctuary campus” was not explicitly written, such refusals to comply with ICE requests qualify it as one.

Gutmann had been criticized for her past reticence on a petition calling for the sanctuary status. Penn students and employees have been pushing for the university to designate itself as such in recent weeks, in light of Donald Trump’s presidential win. With Gutmann’s statement, Penn joins colleges like Wesleyan and Reed, which declared themselves sanctuary campuses earlier this month.

The consequences that sanctuary campuses face, as this CityLab report thoroughly details, remain unclear. While Trump has been vocal about sanctuary cities, he hasn’t had as much to say on sanctuary colleges, and whether his administration would support sanctions against them.

Penn’s position aligns with Philly’s. Mayor Jim Kenney has withstood pressure to reverse the executive order that maintains the city’s status. He told a Billy Penn Culture Editor Danya Henninger, via Twitter, that the city will resist Trump’s policies earlier this month.

We also endorse the City of Philadelphia’s Fourth Amendment practice that blocks City and campus police from complying with ICE detainer requests for nonviolent offenses,” Gutmann wrote.

Gutmann also noted that the undocumented students will not be denied Penn scholarships, if they apply as international students. She emphasized that stipends, grants, financial aid and work-study programs would continue to open for undocumented students as they are now.

“We recognize that many in our community remain anxious about the future,” wrote Gutmann. “United, we will do everything in our power to ensure the continued security and success of our undocumented students. It is times such as these when we must hold even closer our cherished Penn values of inclusion, diversity, equity and mutual respect.”

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