Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has issued a warning to public colleges in his state, threatening to defund them if they shield undocumented students from deportation.
Following the election of President-elect Donald Trump, student petitions have circulated in several public colleges in Texas demanding that university officials declare the campus as "sanctuary" space for undocumented classmates.
One petition sent to Texas University President Denise M. Trauth cited concerns over the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy implemented by President Barack Obama that provides temporary protections for undocumented immigrants who had been raised in the U.S. as children, according to the Houston Chronicle.
During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to repeal the law.
"While it is unclear whether or how quickly government agencies will take action against students with DACA status, the potential threat of deportation will certainly have deleterious effects upon individuals and the university community at large," the petition stated.
"Texas will not tolerate sanctuary campuses or cities," Abbott tweeted following the petition. "I will cut funding for any state campus if it establishes sanctuary status."
The Texas governor's office offered no further elaboration on his announcement, including whether or not his pledge to defund college universities is even legally feasible.
It is not clear whether or not public universities in Texas could actually adopt sanctuary status. The student petitions asked administrators to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials and to withhold information about students' citizenship, Dallas News reports.
Student information is already largely protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Law enforcement can only attain student information beyond enrollment status if they are a suspect in a crime.
Several private universities across the country have adopted sanctuary policies, but public colleges do not enjoy the same amount of discretion because they are located on state-owned land and receive state funding.
Sheridan Lagunas-Aguirre, the operations coordinator for the University Leadership Initiative and a student of the University of Texas, blasted Gov. Abbott's announcement, deeming it a betrayal of the state's values.
"As a person who's undocumented, this baffles me," Lagunas-Aguirre told The Daily Texan.
"Immigrant students have been attending state universities since 2001, and Texas has built this legacy of protecting and supporting undocumented youth who are pursuing higher education… It's time for professors to make a stand and make it clear to other campuses that immigrants are here to stay and we're not going anywhere."