Professor starts petition for sanctuary status at A-State

Professor starts petition for sanctuary status at A-State

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - An Arkansas legislator proposed a bill that would keep state-funded colleges and universities from declaring themselves as a sanctuary campus.

The bill will go before the legislature in 2017. Meanwhile, a professor at Arkansas State University has a petition to have the school become a sanctuary campus.

Assistant Professor Dr. Michele Merritt started the petition and said she believes people oppose the idea because of a lack of understanding of what a sanctuary campus is.

"I know there is going to be pushback but that's why educating the community is so important," Dr. Merritt said. "I encourage those who are opposed to do some research, find out about the other colleges who have become sanctuaries already and what that entails, learn about DACA, and then make your informed decision as to whether you agree with the petition."

State Representative Brandt Smith drafted the bill to prohibit state colleges and universities from declaring sanctuary campus status.

Smith said it is not feasible for colleges and universities to become sanctuary campuses because they are federally funded.

"If a campus in our state is designated as a sanctuary campus," said Smith, "does that mean if someone who is in our country illegally and makes their way to any campus in our state and declares sanctuary, does that mean all the sudden the university is responsible for room and board even if they're not a student?"

Smith said his bill would only bolster federal laws already on the books.

Some students on the campus of Arkansas State University also sounded off on the petition today, showing support for the petition with some reservations.

"It would bring enrichment to my fellow students here at school. Other viewpoints are always appreciated, especially people that come from a different region of the world that people here might never experience," said one student. "Now as far as monetary concerns go, I think as long as we could afford it without taking away from any important programs that we might have. Then that might be something to look into."

The earliest Representative Smith's bill could be considered is during next year's legislative session.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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