Labels do not make a haven

The Northern Star Editorial Board stands with NIU’s decision on remaining a non-sanctuary campus.

While on the surface, the idea of a sanctuary campus comes off as helpful, in actuality, there are no legal benefits or added protections for undocumented students at a university that declares itself a sanctuary campus, Spokesperson Joe King said.

The lack of benefits for undocumented students was the primary reason NIU chose not to adapt the sanctuary campus title, King said.

The Board agrees with the reasoning behind not becoming a sanctuary campus as there are no legal protections for undocumented students if NIU was to declare itself a sanctuary campus and could end up confusing undocumented students in the long run.

“There really is no such thing as a sanctuary campus,” King said. “It’s not a legally-recognized entity. We were concerned if we even adopted the name symbolically, students might make the assumption that they had greater protection than they actually do. We didn’t want to create that kind of confusion.”

Junior psychology major Brenda Herrera said she does not agree with NIU’s stance because undocumented students want to feel safe with their education system.

“I have undocumented family members who go to school,” Herrera said. “If they didn’t feel supported by their university, it’d be disheartening for them.”

NIU will continue taking measures to support and assist its undocumented population while encouraging students, faculty and staff to continue communicating with NIU officials about important legal and social issues that impact this population, according to a statement released on the Undocumented Student Resources page on NIU’s website Jan. 30.

The Board agrees with the steps NIU has taken on creating communication between students faculty and staff with NIU officials as it shows the University truly cares about the well-being of undocumented students.

Rafay Beg, freshman mechanical engineering major, agrees with the stance of NIU because he said he does not want people to gain false hope.

“Either way, it doesn’t matter,” Beg said. “If they have it, then they have false hope, or people think they’re protected, but they are not. For that reason, I think it’s better [NIU] is not declared a sanctuary campus so people are aware and alert of what is going on around them.”

The action plan put together by NIU officials Jan. 30 works with state and federal laws to assist students in areas to help them succeed.

For example, NIU will not release any information about any student regardless of immigration status under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act unless subpoenaed to do so. NIU police will respect the privacy of students and let Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deal with civil immigration law, and NIU officials will also work with the Office of Counseling and Consultation Services because the counselors have agreed to participate in an Undocumented Ally training this spring.

Undocumented students will still be able to apply for scholarships as long as they meet the scholarship’s criteria, and NIU will look into how it can create new scholarships to assist undocumented students, according to the action plan.

NIU’s stance coincides with other in-state universities such as the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, University of Chicago and DePaul University.

While the Board wants to encourage diversity and help those achieve the lifestyle they came here for, it is not in the best interest of NIU or of students to declare itself a sanctuary campus, as it adds no extra security for undocumented students.