- Associated Press - Friday, February 3, 2017

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas State University officials said they won’t declare the school a “sanctuary campus” in response to a petition calling on the university to do so to help protect immigrant students living in the U.S. illegally.

Arkansas State issued a letter Thursday saying it fully supports its students but couldn’t take actions inconsistent with federal or state law that could put the university as risk, and in turn also its students and employees, the Jonesboro Sun (http://bit.ly/2l4j14g ) reported.

“We want to be very clear that we support the right of all of our students to attend this university and have the opportunity to earn an education,” the letter said.

Similar efforts began nationwide after the election of President Donald Trump, who pledged to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program, started by former President Barack Obama, allows young people brought into the U.S. illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits.

The Arkansas petition asked school officials to create a program that would provide free legal counsel and funding to students and employees covered by DACA, and to guarantee scholarships given to DACA recipients wouldn’t be forfeited if the federal program were rescinded.

The letter from the university said it does not release private information unless required by federal or state law. It also said that as long as state or federal law doesn’t require forfeitures of DACA scholarships, the program recipients will not lose their scholarships.

The newspaper reports that a sanctuary campus actively tries to protect students illegally living in the U.S., which could include administrators not voluntarily assisting federal efforts to deport such students.

The petition was created by Michele Merritt, an assistant professor of philosophy at Arkansas State.

“I hope it will at least ruffle some feathers and get people more involved in activism surrounding these issues and wanting to protect our immigrant students,” Merritt said, adding that she thinks it is encouraging for people to “dig more into these issues.”

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com

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