TRENTON — The declaration of Rutgers University as a "safe haven" for immigrant students in the country illegally was not enough for protesters who interrupted a Board of Governors meeting to demand the school be declared a "sanctuary."

But those protesters would be hard-pressed to find a so-called "sanctuary campus" in New Jersey.

"In today’s political environment, the term 'sanctuary' has become encumbered by vague and shifting definitions. We must be focused on policy and principles, not labels. But make no mistake: by providing a safe space for our students and faculty, regardless of nationality or background, Rutgers is and will always be a sanctuary," president Robert Barchi said in a statement provided to New Jersey 101.5.

He said that Rutgers "does not and will not share undocumented student records without a warrant, subpoena, or court order" which the protesters took issue with, shouting "Shame" as they sat on the floor in front of the governors, reports.

"Send a message of support to your students who desperately need it. ... I need to know my university will stand with me when I'm out on the street," the report quotes Thais Marques, 22, a political science major who identified herself as an unauthorized immigrant from Brazil, saying.

Protesters outside the Rutgers Board of Governors meeting
Protesters outside the Rutgers Board of Governors meeting (Nikilesh De)

Members of the New Jersey Senior Public Colleges and Universities, including Kean, TCNJ, Montclair, Rowan, Thomas Edison, Ramapo, Stockton and William Paterson, released a statement similar to Barchi's, promising to protect their students. They said the colleges would require legal action to release "personally identifiable information."

The NJSPCU members said students are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which gives students control over how their information from education records is disclosed.

"Undocumented students should be assured that they cannot be deported immediately and have statutory and constitutional rights. Specifically, they have the right to a hearing and to have a judge review their case, and they can remain in the U.S. until a final decision is rendered, which in some cases can take years," the statement reads.

The issue of deportation and immigration has become a heightened issue with the election of Donald Trump as president, after Trump made immigration a signauture issue in his campaign. Petition drives and marches at campuses around the country followed Trump's pledge to reverse President Barack Obama's executive order granting temporary status to students living in the country illegally. Trump also promised during his campaign to create a "deportation force" and take federal funding away from sanctuary cities.

Princeton University president Chris Eisgruber struck a similar tone in his letter to the college released on Nov. 28 — saying Princeton will not become a "sanctuary campus." He wrote that he was in agreement immigration lawyers he consulted that conclude that such a designation has no basis in law.

"Colleges and universities have no authority to exempt any part of their campuses from the nation’s immigration laws," Eisgruber wrote.

But he also said — in response to Trump's statement that he might end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields some students here illegally from deportation — ending the program would be a "tragic mistake.

"That would be a tragic mistake. DACA is a wise, humane, and beneficial policy. It enables law-abiding young people who have grown up in the United States to develop their talents and contribute productively to this country, which is their home,"  Eisgruber wrote.

He continued: "Princeton University has consistently supported DACA, and I both hope and believe that the policy can be sustained."

Eisgruber, Barchi along with the presidents of Camden County College, Cumberland County College, Kean, Mercer County Community College, Middlesex Community College, Montclair, New Jersey City University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Ramapo, Seton Hall, TCNJ, Union County College, Ramapo College issued a joint statement in support of DACA.

Representatives from Monmouth University and Rider University said their respective schools and presidents had no opinions on sanctuary campuses.

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