Duke faculty group wants immigration agents kept on tight leash on campus

Duke University’s leaders need to keep a tight rein on any “immigration enforcement agents” who visit campus, seeing to it that their presence “is permitted by law” or a judge-signed warrant before they enter Duke property, a key faculty group says.

They should also see to it that campus police stay out of the immigration-enforcement businsess, to the point of not detaining people in response to “hold” requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and other authorities, Duke’s Arts & Sciences Council said in a new resolution that passed 21-3, with four absentions.

The vote came at the request of Frances Hasso, a gender-studies professor who said the council needed to make “a statement in defense of all members of the Duke community.” The council represents professors in Trinity College, the academic home of the university’s primary undergraduate degree programs.

The resolution itself cited U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called “travel ban” orders as the immediate reason to weigh in. The orders -- one issued in January and another, replacing the first, issued this month -- temporarily barred the nationals of a handful of Middle Eastern and African counties from entering the United States. The second order affects people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who didn’t have a visa as of Jan. 27, except those with green cards or other dispensation to enter the country.

But the resolution’s wording also signaled worry about broader crackdowns, and said police action can “significantly interfere” with Duke’s education, research and creative work.

The council’s vote followed a somewhat similar move by Duke’s Academic Council, an all-units faculty group that speaks for more than just Trinity’s professors. And members acknowledged that Duke President Richard Brodhead and his staff have also spoken against the travel ban.

Via Brodhead, Duke joined many other well-known universities in the country in asking Trump to “rectify or rescind” the first version of the travel ban, which as initially implemented targeted even green-card holders. It also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief that asked a New York judge to overturn it.

Federal officials designed this month’s replacement order to get past some of the legal objections. Duke’s chief spokesman, Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations Michael Schoenfeld, said administrators nonetheless “continue to have concerns about any executive orders or regulations that impede the free flow of students, scholars and ideas, and that create uncertainty and potential harm to members of the Duke community.”

Schoenfeld added that Brodhead and his staff “appreciate and value the engagement of faculty in this vital matter,” and said the Duke president’s December and January statements on immigration sum up the administration’s position on immigration matters.

The January statement, issued over the signature of Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth, said Duke “cannot and will not share confidential student records beyond those already required by law (such as SEVIS) without a subpoena.”

SEVIS -- short for Student and Exchange Visitor Program -- requires university officials to track and report to the federal government the enrollment status and academic progress of foreign-national students who are in this country on student visas.

The December statement, signed by Brodhead alone, said Duke through Schoenfeld’s office had been “speaking with members of Conress to convey our fundamental opposition” to backtracking on the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program instituted under Trump’s predecessor, former U.S. President Barack Obama.

But it also noted that “no university in America and declare itself immune from the rule of law,” and that self-declarations of “sanctuary campus” status this “cannot confer any additional protections that are not already in place.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg