Pa. students protest anti-sanctuary campus bill

 Widener University freshman Hannah Guth protests Pa. House Bill 14 outside of state representative Stephen Barrar's office in Chadd's Ford. (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

Widener University freshman Hannah Guth protests Pa. House Bill 14 outside of state representative Stephen Barrar's office in Chadd's Ford. (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

On Thursday, college students rallied outside of nine state representative’s offices across Pennsylvania today, calling for them to drop their support of a bill that would punish sanctuary campuses.

There is no set definition for a “sanctuary” campus. The state bill in question, HB 14, calls for withdrawing state aid from any school that “1) Prohibits the enforcement of a Federal law or the laws of this Commonwealth pertaining to an immigrant or immigration. (2) Refuses access by Federal authorities to a campus. (3) Directs employees of an institution of higher education not to communicate, coordinate or cooperate with Federal authorities regarding an individual’s immigration status.”

“My first concern is that it’s morally wrong,” said Widener University Junior Nick Dulepski, standing outside of state Representative Stephen Barrar’s office in Chadd’s Ford.

A half a dozen Widener students and Barrar constituents came to the action, coordinated by the Pennsylvania Student Power Network. Widener is not a sanctuary campus, but Dulepski and others have circulated a petition for the cause which has garnered 419 signatures.

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“We have a meeting set up with our president, President [Julie] Wollman at Widener,” said freshman Hannah Guth. “So far, she has hinted at being supportive but something like this, HB 14, would hurt that.”

Widener University spokeswoman Mary Allen confirmed Wollman will meet with students and that it is “not unusual.” The university has no statement on whether it is or will be a sanctuary campus, she said.

Swarthmore and the University of Pennsylvania are the only two colleges in the state to declare they will not voluntarily permit federal immigration enforcement on their campuses. Both private, well-endowed universities, still stand to lose thousands of dollars in state support if HB 14 passes. It’s also not clear how schools would enforce parts of their policies, like keeping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents off of campuses without a warrant.

Temple University’s president signed a letter of support for students with Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA, status, but that school has not adopted a formal sanctuary policy.

Barrar was not in his office, but spokesman for the House Republican Caucus Steve Miskin later welcomed students to “talk to their representatives, where they vote, and pass on the information to the representatives that they want to.”

Other actions on Thursday targeted legislators, some of whom co-sponsored the bill, in Lancaster, Erie, Pittsburgh, Tamaqua, State College, Northeast Philadelphia, Drexel Hill.

HB 14 has been referred to the State Government committee and will not move until legislative session resumes March 13.

President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration do not extend to repealing DACA. Reports show Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have still detained some “dreamers,” as DACA recipients are called, in recent weeks.

More than five thousand dreamers live in Pennsylvania, according to the most recent numbers available from the US Citizen and Immigration Services.

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