Notre Dame will not be a sanctuary campus, president tells faculty

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins greets Pope Francis at the Vatican in January 2014.

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins greets Pope Francis at the Vatican in January 2014.

(Vatican Photographic Office)

The University of Notre Dame’s president has decided not to declare the school a sanctuary campus despite requests from faculty, students and others to help protect students living in the U.S. illegally.

The South Bend Tribune reports that Rev. John I. Jenkins sent a letter to the faculty senate this month saying the university doesn’t voluntarily provide information on any students’ immigration status, but that it would comply with the law if there’s a legal requirement to do so.

“I do not want to appear to make our students a promise on which we cannot deliver,” Jenkins wrote.

The topic of sanctuary campuses has received nationwide attention out of concern that President Donald Trump may eliminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The program allows many young immigrants to work and continue their schooling in the U.S. without fear of being deported.


Jenkins said a public declaration of Notre Dame as a sanctuary campus could draw attention to vulnerable students and provoke a reaction from authorities that may be avoided otherwise.

Jeanne Romero-Severson, chair of the faculty senate, said some members are disappointed in Jenkins’ response. She said the designation was sought primarily as a symbolic gesture.

“We were not asking that Notre Dame engage in civil disobedience or break any laws,” she said.

Faculty senate member Ben Heller, who wrote the original draft of the resolution, said he feels the president missed an opportunity to send a strong message of support to students living in the U.S. illegally.

Heller said Jenkins took a cautious approach that might give him room to act on the issue with fewer negative consequences.

Jenkins has previously expressed strong support on behalf of such students at the university. He said the administration will continue to monitor federal policy related to DACA students.