With his recent executive order aimed at defunding “sanctuary jurisdictions,” President Donald Trump did what he does best — threatening his opponents. While this threat is definitely a concern that USC should consider while weighing the idea of becoming a sanctuary campus, the University shouldn’t allow it to stand in the way of protecting its students and supporting other sanctuary jurisdictions.
USC is one of the nation’s most diverse campuses, located in Los Angeles — a sanctuary city in the state of California, currently considering status as a sanctuary state. As the city of Los Angeles, the state of California and countless other jurisdictions across the United States are standing up to Trump’s threats, USC should continue to support these jurisdictions by enforcing similar sanctuary policies. Refusing to do so due to the threat of defunding gives credibility to these very threats, which other jurisdictions are taking with a grain of salt.
Granted, the amount of federal funding that USC relies on — $443 million for research — is nothing to laugh at. However, in addition to the nearly 40 cities and counties with sanctuary status in California, many college campuses have declared sanctuary status. These campuses, like the entire California State University system, are public institutions and therefore face an even greater threat of funding cuts, but still opted for sanctuary status. The California State University system adopted sanctuary-like policies — although they did not name themselves sanctuary campuses — following the November election.
Of course, “everyone else is doing it” seems like a silly argument, but it would be even more silly to preemptively recoil from sanctuary policies in fear of defunding, while other jurisdictions are standing strong. Additionally, there is strong campus support for our status as a sanctuary campus, as evidenced by USC’s Undergraduate Student Government senators’ passage of a November resolution in favor of designating the university a sanctuary campus. All but one senator voted yes.
Also in November, USC Provost Michael Quick released a statement affirming the University’s commitment to protecting students, writing, “Our Department of Public Safety follows the lead of the Los Angeles Police Department, which does not initiate law enforcement activities based solely on immigration status.”
This was the right tone for the University to take — following the lead of the city we exist in. If Los Angeles decides to back off from its sanctuary status because it decides Trump’s threat could seriously result in the city’s defunding, then and only then should USC also retreat. Until then, it wouldn’t make sense to be an island without sanctuary in the middle of one of the nation’s of sanctuary cities.
Furthermore, as Quick also noted in his statement, providing authorities information about students’ immigration status could be in violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, under which USC cannot give out information from student records without student consent or a judicial order. Students deserve their right to privacy, and students at our University should be able to study without being in fear of the very university they trusted with their information to give it up to federal authorities. This puts universities stuck between a rock and a hard place — they can either violate FERPA or violate President Trump’s executive order.
This is at least partially due to the general uncertainty regarding what qualifies a sanctuary jurisdiction, since many institutions such as USC have sanctuary policies without explicitly declaring themselves “sanctuary campuses.”
Finally, the exact definition of a “sanctuary jurisdiction” is unclear and varies between jurisdictions. Will jurisdictions be defunded as soon as they merely request immunity for immigrant constituents?
It is unclear whether, or how, Trump will enforce his threat of stripping sanctuary states, cities, counties and other locales across the United States of funding. Until this is clear, sanctuary jurisdictions should not back down from their stance.
USC should stand with California cities, counties and other educational institutions as a sanctuary campus, presenting a united front that protects students. Once they start to take Trump’s threat seriously, USC can also consider shedding its sanctuary status.
Erin Rode is a junior majoring in journalism and political science. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Wednesdays.