At issue is the potential loss of federal funding that could accompany taking on
such a label. President Donald Trump has already moved to deny federal funds to cities that don't comply with federal officials in deporting undocumented immigrants. Congress introduced legislation last month to financially punish sanctuary campuses. And in Michigan, House lawmakers have introduced a bill that enacts financial penalties on local units of government who don’t comply with federal officials on immigration issues.
"It's a very difficult decision," Charles Parrish, president of the WSU chapter
of the American Association of University Professors/American Federation of
Teachers, said prior to Wilson’s email. "The president and the board are
hesitant because of the political situation in Lansing and nationally."
Though he stopped short of declaring Wayne State's campus a sanctuary, Wilson did heed the petitioners’ request that he sign a statement in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program protecting immigrants whose families illegally brought them to the U.S. as children. Wayne State had until now been absent from the list of 600 U.S. colleges and universities supporting DACA. The leaders of five other Michigan universities had signed the statement early on.
While petitioner Kuehnl said he appreciates Wayne State’s joining the list, he says the university still “has not offered a public declaration supporting its immigrant community and denouncing rhetoric that would mean it harm.”
Wilson’s Tuesday message was at first only sent internally and did not accompany the list of public statements on his website until late afternoon. Kuehnl said it showed the university’s “failure to lead on these issues.”
Others who backed the petition described Wilson’s support for undocumented students as weak when compared with that of other Michigan universities. The University of Michigan’s president, for example, went a step further than Wayne State by coming out in support of legislation known as the BRIDGE Act, which would allow individuals in the U.S. who arrived as children to stay in the country for another three years without the threat of deportation. That school also said it would establish a working group to help it better understand the needs and concerns of international members of its campus community and to consider ideas for additional support.