CSB, SJU decline to become ‘sanctuary’ campuses but promise support for undocumented students

The presidents of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University said their schools “will continue to support undocumented students to the fullest extent of the law,” but they declined to become sanctuary campuses.

The decision, which they said was made “in the best interest of all of our students and the future of our institutions,” was announced Dec. 8 in a letter to the campus communities in St. Joseph and Collegeville.

The letter was signed by Mary Hinton, College of St. Benedict president, and Michael Hemesath, St. John’s University president. It also was signed by the leaders of the two religious communities that founded the schools: Benedictine Sister Michaela Hedican, prioress of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph and Abbot John Klassen of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville.

It came in response to a recent petition signed by more than 1,500 students, faculty, staff, alumni and others to make the schools sanctuary campuses for undocumented students who fear potential deportation after President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated into office next month.

“As campus and community leaders we have reflected on your request, and we agree whole-heartedly with the principle at the heart of your concerns: that our Catholic and Benedictine values call us to respect, protect and support all members of our community,” the letter said.

But, it stated, “as higher education institutions we have no legal ability to set ourselves apart from the laws of our state and federal government.” Declaring the schools as sanctuary campuses “could very well put at risk state and federal financial aid support that are essential for the vast majority of our students to pursue their educations.”

The Benedictine sisters, monks and campus communities “have always worked to promote educational opportunities for the most vulnerable among us,” the letter said. “Specifically, throughout our history we have supported first generation students and immigrants regardless of their immigration status.”

The letter added: “We will help prospective students understand the college admissions process, admit those who are academically qualified, provide students with all the institutional financial support and scholarships they are eligible for, offer comprehensive support and mentorship, and protect student privacy as required by federal law.”

Both school presidents have made public their support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Under the program initiated through executive order by President Barack Obama, young immigrants brought into the United States by their parents as young children without legal permission are protected from deportation for two-year periods. During his campaign, Trump said he wanted to undo what he called Obama’s “overreaching” executive orders on immigration.

This story contains information from Catholic News Service.

Author: The Visitor

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

1 comment

As a CSB alumna, practicing Catholic and member of the St. Cloud Diocese, and director of Immigration Crime Victim Advocates, I am very please with CSB/SJU’s decision not to become a sanctuary campus.. The petition was essentially asking for the campuses to turn their backs on VICTIMS OF IMMIGRATION CRIME and aid and abet criminal activity. Various U.S. Citizens, enter into I-864 financial affidavits of support. When an immigrant is found to have defrauded the sponsor, the immigrant’s benefit is revoked and that immigrant faces deportation just as those this petition intends to serve. However, the sponsor remains forced into that contract being financially liable for the immigrant indefinitely and for infinite terms, until the unlawfully present immigrant is deported. I REITERATE: Even AFTER being defrauded, the sponsor remains liable, until the immigrant is deported. The Campus’ acts of harboring illegal aliens, can be construed as CONTRACT INTERFERENCE and BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP INTERFERENCE, between the sponsor and the U.S. Government, transferring liability to the Campuses for any financial damages associated with their acts of harboring, including any acts the immigrant engages in which cause damage upon another. It would also be an overt slap in the face, to those sponsors who, like myself, am an alumna of CSB. Before filing a petition to CSB/SJU, I would suggest those petitioners should educate themselves on EVERY aspect relating to their petition, versus making a very narrow-minded request. Understanding both legal and ethical consequences is essential to making a just decision. Choosing illegal and criminal aliens, over U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, Immigration Crime Victims and CSB Alumna would have been disappointing to say the least. I am very glad CSB/SJU chose not to engage in such activities.

Side Note: Immigrant rights orgs including the Catholic Church are notorious for encouraging illegal aliens to remain in the U.S. unlawfully. They too fail to realize they are harming another individual (the sponsor) who was first defrauded by the immigrant, left to fend for themselves by the government, and then victimized once again by those organizations associated with the Catholic Church who provide immigrants with free legal aid, who perpetuate the fraud. I love the Catholic Church and will not turn my back on it, but I will continue to educate and ask for change for the injustices which are being perpetrated against victims.

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