Petition seeks 'sanctuary' status for Bowdoin College

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BRUNSWICK — Following at least 100 colleges and universities across the country, a group of Bowdoin College students are circulating an online petition that would make the college a “sanctuary campus” and protect students at risk of deportation.

The action comes at the same week that Portland announced it would cooperate with federal officials if President-elect Donald Trump follows through with his pledge to immediately deport undocumented immigrants, according to the Bangor Daily News.

“We call on Bowdoin College to stand with other colleges and universities and investigate how to make Bowdoin a sanctuary campus that will protect our current and future students from intimidation, unfair investigation, and deportation,” the petition states.

As of noon on Monday, the petition had received 841 signatures from students, alumni, faculty, board members, and parents. It is addressed to college President Clayton Rose and four other top-ranking Bowdoin officials and deans.

Trump campaigned on the promise to repeal President Obama’s executive orders that provide protections to undocumented immigrants, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a measure that protects undocumented immigrant minors who arrived in the U.S. before age 16.

The letter states that “DACA-mented and undocumented peers are able to remain on campus and focus on their education instead of their fears of being forced to abandon their education and separate from their families.”

DACA provides protections to more than 700,000 students, according to the petition.

The petition enumerates an eight-point list of protections that would establish a sanctuary campus, which includes keeping students’ immigration status confidential, and the college’s refusal to share information or cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

The list is similar to characteristics of so-called “sanctuary cities” around the country, an unofficial term to describe cities that provide safe havens to undocumented immigrants, primarily by refraining to prosecute violations of federal immigration laws.

In the days following Trump’s victory, mayors in cities such as New York, Boston, and Los Angeles have reaffirmed their commitment to remaining places of sanctuary. But last week, the Bangor Daily News reported that spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said Portland is not a sanctuary city, and would comply with federal immigration officials.

A 2014 report by the Pew Research Center estimated there are fewer than 5,000 unauthorized immigrants living in Maine.

The student petition suggests the college has the ability to act independently of neighboring cities and municipalities.

“U.S. Customs Enforcement officers are not able to enter college campuses without authorization. Bowdoin has the power to protect undocumented community members and students from law enforcement,” it states, citing an ICE policy that exempts “sensitive locations” like colleges and places of worship from enforcement actions. 

However, the policy stipulates that “enforcement actions may occur at sensitive locations in limited circumstances, but will generally be avoided. ICE or CBP officers and agents may conduct an enforcement action at a sensitive location with prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official, or if the enforcement action involves exigent circumstances.”

Leah Alper, a Bowdoin senior, said the petition is modeled on similar petitions that are circulating on campuses around the country, but that the group has tailored the language to apply specifically to Bowdoin.

While she and a small group of students are coordinating the petition drive, Alper said “the organization that has been the real catalyst for this is Cosecha,” an action-network centered on promoting rights for undocumented immigrants, started by students with undocumented parents.

College spokesman Doug Cook said Friday that the college is aware of the petition, and will carefully review it and prepare an appropriate response once it is formally presented to leadership.

Cook could not comment on whether the college knows of specific students who might be threatened by Trump’s immigration plans, but wrote in an email that “I will emphasize that Bowdoin will continue to support all of our students.”

“Bowdoin will not be swayed from its values,” he added, quoting an email sent by Rose on Nov. 10 in response to the presidential election.

“(Bowdoin must) always reject hate; demand mutual respect, vicinity, and inclusion; encourage freedom of inquiry and expression; inspire a deep commitment to the common good; and ensure unwavering concern and support for one another,” Rose wrote.

Trump has yet to explicitly say he would repeal DACA, although he renewed his pledge to immediately deport undocumented immigrants during an interview with “60 Minutes” on Nov. 13, with a priority of targeting those with criminal records.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100, or at Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

The Bowdoin College chapel.


Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or

  • Chew H Bird

    I had no idea Bowdoin was harboring illegal trespassers… Really?

  • Lucy Ball

    Promised to deport illegal criminals, not illegals in general. But then again the story quotes the BDN for that information. Most of the Bowdoin students come from other states so take all of the illegals home with you.

  • Paul Whitcomb

    I believe that federal enforcement is valid on-campus. Bowdoin and all these other colleges have no legal standing for supporting crime. If they try to support it, they put themselves in legal jeopardy. Please eliminate all illegal students from Bowdoin’s ranks now, so that eligible citizens can take their place.

    • farmertom2

      Don’t be absurd. The federal government cannot compel me or you or Bowdoin to help them in any way with their law enforcement activities. Bowdoin would not be doing anything wrong– if they adopted this stance– by simply not asking, not telling, not engaging.

  • funfundvierzig

    How many illegals are on full scholarship, all expenses paid at this Alt-Left College? And they and their fellow students now demand to make Bowdoin a safe sanctuary with a complete suspension of the laws of the land.

    What kind of radical anarchists is this abusively liberal institution churning out? How much of this social engineering is being fueled ideologically and financially by leftist billionaires abroad in Europe or New York City or Boston?


  • funfundvierzig

    Come to think of it, this is the same illiberal liberal arts college whose addled Administration and students kicked a coed out of her room last spring and threatened her with impeachment proceedings and expulsion for violating the school’s Code of Political Correctness.

    Her sin?

    She wore a tiny sombrero at a private, off-campus party! Another student of Mexican origin found out and apparently suffered a traumatic micro-aggression and cultural exploitation. Remember the disrepute and ridicule which rained down on Bowdoin College, not only nationally but even internationally in places like London?

    Now this same Bowdoin College wants to provide an all expenses-paid safety zone for illegals, no expulsions for breaking the laws of the land, only the school’s stringent Code of Political Correctness.


  • Alchemist

    Kudos to Bowdoin for this initiative and instilling empathy as a principle in their students. Most young people do not support the “let’s deport them all” nonsense, this is just one of many laudable examples. Go Polar Bears!!

    • Chew H Bird

      So I ask… If you had someone taking up residence on your front lawn, without your permission, would you show empathy and allow them to stay?

    • EABeem

      Exactly. The narrow-minded and prejudiced won, but that does not mean good people have to go along with their hateful agenda.

      • Jimmy_John67

        “The good people of America areo n the side of the immigrants, as well as the Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos, women and children…”

        I agree! Quick question though…if the good people of America are on that side then what side are you on considering you are a rotten and hateful person? It really is too bad that your core ideals of ignorance, anger and intolerance won on November 8th.