State College passes sanctuary city resolution

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The Pennsylvania State University's main campus in State College. The borough has declared itself a sanctuary jurisdiction, while the university has not.

Adding more fuel to the debate over so-called "sanctuary cities," the State College Borough Council has passed a resolution vowing to protect immigrants, less than a week after Pennsylvania State University's president declared that college would not become a sanctuary campus.

The resolution passed Monday says the borough believes enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility and the council "will not voluntarily assist in any efforts by the federal government to apprehend, detain or deport community members."

In the wake of Donald Trump's election, some cities and colleges campuses have doubled down on their sanctuary statuses, though considerable confusion exists about what exactly constitutes a sanctuary jurisdiction.

The term is often used to describe jurisdictions that will not honor federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, which are issued when ICE wants to detain someone being held by another agency.

"I think that our immigration law is not only complex, it is occasionally wrong in the worst possible, unconstitutional ways," Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said in support of the resolution, according to the Centre Daily Times. "Saying that we are not going to back and enforce certain clearly problematic aspects of immigration law is the only option that we have from my point of view." 

Trump has vowed to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities, and a Pennsylvania lawmaker has described plans for legislation that would withhold state funding from universities that declare themselves sanctuary campuses and refuse to cooperate with authorities seeking undocumented students.

Last week, Penn State president Eric Barron called the term "ambiguous" and said the system's flagship campus would not be declared a sanctuary school.

“If used, it could imply that our university has the authority to exempt our campus from federal immigration laws, when in fact no university has that authority,” Barron said in a statement. “It also implies incorrectly a university is able to provide special protections to undocumented individuals beyond the law. That also is not the case.”

In Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney has gone out of his way to affirm the city's sanctuary status since the election. The University of Pennsylvania, Trump's alma mater, and Swarthmore College have called themselves sanctuary campuses, saying they would not allow federal immigration authorities on the private campuses without warrants, and would not share information about undocumented students without legal orders.