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Penn State will not adopt "sanctuary campus" title

Pennsylvania State University will not become a "sanctuary campus," a term that President Eric Barron said is "ambiguous" and has "no legal validity."

His statement comes as the nation's college campuses debate how to respond to the possibility that President-elect Donald Trump will repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), put in place by President Obama to protect undocumented college students from deportation. Barron is among 570 college presidents who signed a letter in support of DACA.

Penn State had received a student petition, requesting that the university adopt the sanctuary campus designation. But Barron said that declaring the state's flagship university a sanctuary campus will not offer any additional protections.

"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," Barron said in the statement. "It also implies incorrectly a university is able to provide special protections to undocumented individuals beyond the law. That also is not the case."

Barron said Penn State will comply with the law, including keeping student information private "except in accordance with the law."

Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania, both wealthy private institutions, have said they will not allow federal immigration authorities on campus unless they have warrants, and will not share information about undocumented students without a legal order. Swarthmore declared itself a sanctuary campus, and Penn President Amy Gutmann said "Penn has always been a sanctuary."

Temple and West Chester have not declared used the term. Neither has the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which includes the state's 14 public universities, including West Chester.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker, State Rep. Jerry Knowles (R., Schuylkill), has said he plans to introduce legislation in January that would withhold state funding from any university that declares itself a "sanctuary campus" and fails to cooperate with authorities seeking undocumented students.
Penn State receives more than $300 million in state funding annually.