UNT, TWU students rally for a "sanctuary campus"

- Hundreds of North Texas college students rallied to demand their schools become “sanctuary campus” to protected undocumented students and staff. But one state leader is already threatening to cut funding to the schools if that ever happened.

Around 300 students walked out of classes at UNT and marched through Denton to meet with TWU students in a show of solidarity. They joined students from other schools like Texas State and UT, who are petitioning their universities to publicly reject any future attempts to crack down on undocumented students and staff.

The organizers of Thursday’s demonstration said the rally was on behalf of students who fear immediate deportation. It was in reaction to Donald Trump's campaign promise to take a tough stand on illegal immigration.

“I feel like there's a lot of people that feel insecure about what's going to happen, and they don't have any answers from anybody,” said UNT student Melissa Moranti.

Students are also circulating a petition to demand that administrators reject any future cooperation with immigration officials and allow undocumented students to complete their degrees.

Jared Hernandez and Cristal Benitez helped organize UNT’s walkout.

“It would show that they are with us, in support of us, and the undocumented students here,” Hernandez said.

“We're asking for answers. What is going to happen to these students if this is to be repealed? Are they able to continue their classes online or get a refund?” Benitez said. “We need real solid answers because our administration has been saying I don't know.”

A spokesperson for UNT says it's too soon to say if anything will change for universities before Trump takes office. The school has not indicated it would declare itself a sanctuary campus.

But Governor Greg Abbott took to Twitter and posted. “Texas will not tolerate sanctuary campuses or cities. I will cut funding for any state campus if it establishes sanctuary status.”

Abbott’s threat is why UNT student Adam Miller says he can't support his school publicly offering sanctuary.

“I really feel for the undocumented students going to school here,” he said. “But with so many millions of dollars at risk, I think it's a no-brainer for the Board of Regents appointed by the governor.”

The term "sanctuary campus" in itself is a bit difficult to define. There is no legal distinction that a school can make to officially declare itself as a sanctuary school. But the students who advocate for the term on behalf of undocumented students say they want to hear the university administration publicly promise to keep student and staff’s immigration status private even if federal authorities ask for it.

Students also want the schools to take a stand against an immigration raid on campus in case that was ever to ever become a tactic used by federal authorities in the future.

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