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Living the Mission

Dominican University’s mission to educate inclusively is rooted in its service to immigrant communities, initially the Irish lead miners of the rural Midwest. When, on the invitation of Cardinal Mundelein, the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters moved the college to Illinois in 1922, it was “to give the opportunities of higher education to the many,” with the understanding that “neither wealth, nor age, nor race would be of any advantage .....or provide a hindrance.” Today, Dominican University is one of the most diverse private, four-year institutions in the State of Illinois, and one of the first universities in the country to publicly welcome and financially support students regardless of immigration status.

In our community, providing safety and support to students who are threatened because of their citizenship status, race, class, sex, gender identity, or religion transcends politics. We regard that work as honoring our students’ human rights and we approach it through our Catholic, Dominican tradition, which affirms the dignity of the human person and concern for the common good. The university community deeply respects the democratic process and the freedom of expression that grounds the academy. We are also compelled by mission to advocate for and walk alongside students, families, and other members of the university community who face uncertain futures because they are undocumented or otherwise targeted because of their race, gender identity, sexuality, economic means, access to basic resources or national origin. Providing accompaniment to those whose freedom and well-being are threatened  is the foundation of sanctuary at Dominican. The work of accompaniment strengthens the university experience for all students.

Sanctuary as a Community’s Choice and a Moral Imperative

The history of the modern sanctuary movement dates back to the 1980s when the Catholic Church and other religious institutions provided refuge to thousands of undocumented immigrants from Central America who fled civil unrest at home, but were denied access in the U.S. As the movement spread, a number of cities throughout the country joined in solidarity, passing resolutions to overlook the immigration status of residents. The concept itself, however, emerges from the Hebrew Scriptures and refers both to sanctuary as a place set apart and an act of refuge or protection.

In 2017, students from around the country, including many of our inspiring student leaders, called for their universities to designate themselves as sanctuary campuses. In response to that movement, the call of our mission, and the moral imperative presented by that moment in history, the Dominican University Board of Trustees passed a Sanctuary Campus resolution in December of that year. In 2018, the Dominican University Sanctuary Campus Covenant detailed the substance of that resolution, affirming the University’s commitments to do what it can, within the boundaries of the law, to protect residents from deportation. 

In 2020, we renew and extend our Sanctuary Campus Covenant. Our renewed Covenant is crafted in response to new and emerging threats to our community members' well-being, the most immediate being the potential for the U.S. Supreme Court to approve the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This pressing challenge, however, was preceded by three years of policy changes from the current Presidential administration that used race, class, sex, gender identity, religion, and citizenship status to deny basic human rights. 1 The forms of discrimination in these policies—which work at the intersection of race, class, religion, and immigration status to exacerbate historic racial hierarchies and territorial inequalities—run counter to the mission and values of the Dominican community. We cannot ignore the racial implications of these changes to immigration policy and how they work to keep people of color out of the U.S. and foster an atmosphere of fear in immigrant communities.

Finally, we repeat the call of the 2017 Sanctuary Campus Covenant to all faculty, staff, and students; we urge you to follow your conscience and work collectively and creatively together to ensure Dominican University lives out its commitment to a safe, inclusive and equitable campus.

We call on the University community to pursue three overriding commitments—to care, to advocate, and to empower members of our community with knowledge and resources.


Dominican University reaffirms our commitment to stand alongside students and with partners in the communities where the families of our students live, work and dream.  In this moment of great uncertainty and sudden policy change, our commitment to sanctuary will mean extending care in multiple spaces and in a timely, responsive fashion. Therefore, we commit to:

  • Provide safe spaces for students to gather, receive resources, and guidance as they process new information;
    • Leveraging El Centro and new multicultural student center as safe, intersectional spaces for students to gather;
  • Establish support structures for immediate mental health, spiritual, and psychosocial care of students experiencing trauma as a result of policy changes and developments;
    • Provide Peace Circles in University Ministry as a place to give voice to concerns and find community support;
  • Coordinate legal resourcing for any students facing legal complications;
    • El Centro-hosted DACA renewal clinics with community partners, delivering quick help in filing for renewal, and sharing resources for finding financial assistance in paying fees;
    • Other examples of legal clinics that may be offered include expungement, labor and employment law, legal guardianship, small business and non-profit incorporation and other intersecting legal resources for students and their families;
  • Deliver relevant workshops, including labor law and expungement issues, for students and parents in coordination with our community partners;
  • Seek creative means to provide students with professional development experiences:
  • Offer emergency funds on a case-by-case basis to help students with unexpected circumstances;
  • Sponsor a cross-departmental task force, also known as the Sanctuary Subcommittee of CEI, to collaborate, resolve issues and lower the barriers that students from historically marginalized groups face and to ensure that support is institutionalized;
  • Work in collaboration with organizations such as TheDream.US and other local institutions of higher education to support undocumented students along their academic and professional journeys;
  • Provide the appropriate staffing resources, including those in El Centro and the Wellness Center, to bolster support for students and community members from historically marginalized groups.

Dominican University repeats the call of the 2018 covenant to all faculty and staff to advocate for more just and equitable laws, policies, and protocol on behalf of our students needing or seeking sanctuary.  In advocacy for our undocumented students, we remind our colleagues that there are both federal higher education as well as state and local laws that provide measures of protection. In the spirit of sanctuary for all, such advocacy will extend beyond law, policy and protocol regarding immigration status to other measures that elevate the human dignity of all persons. These include but are not limited to the following measures:

  • FERPA: All students are already entitled to privacy regarding their personal information and data. Dominican is prepared to fully use those protections in place to force any official seeking information on a student to comply with legal due process.
  • Village of River Forest Ordinance: The 2017 ordinance states “no village employee shall ‘stop, arrest, search, detain or continue to detain an individual solely based on an individual's citizenship or immigration status.’"
  • Chicago is a Sanctuary City, meaning that Chicago Law enforcement will not cooperate with Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). Additionally, all city services are available to Chicago residents, regardless of immigration status. Furthermore, in July 2019 Mayor Lightfoot terminated ICE’s access to Chicago Police databases. (Per City of Chicago Office of New Americans)
  • Cook County passed an Immigrant Rights Ordinance in 2011, which states that the county will not comply with the federal demands or requests of ICE.

We also reaffirm our sanctuary covenant commitment to ensure that our public safety officers, our faculty, or staff members shall NOT inquire into members’ immigration status or potential violations of civil immigration laws.

Empowerment of Community Members with Knowledge and Resources

In the 2018 Covenant, we, as members of the Dominican University community, committed to strengthening privacy practices and data protection. Simultaneously, there was a movement to more broadly resource front line student service personnel, faculty, and staff with knowledge about the experiences of minoritized persons and the barriers to resources that they face. Some measures of preparation include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Regular training, oversight, and broad communication of all “Front Door Team” practices. These articulate clear engagement protocols for responding to any law enforcement entity attempting to enter campus for any reason. They also ensure that front line student service personnel are adequately prepared to carry out those practices;
  • Allocate financial resources and pursue new sources of funding to ensure that the preparation of community members to adequately respond to concerns happens proactively and regularly, not solely as a reaction to particular problems or issues;
  • Training for campus safety officers and workers, resident assistants and other first responders in mental health first aid, trauma informed practice, and specialized knowledge about particularly vulnerable populations, and;
  • Training for Welcome and Information Desk workers, Rebecca Crown Library personnel, administrative assistants and student services representatives, Peer Leaders, Social Justice Advocates, and other front-line student workers and leaders in the same practices and knowledge mentioned above.

As a general principle, the training highlighted above happens in close partnership with Chicagoland organizations that have developed expertise in these fields. Drawing on the wealth of community-based resources, we offer all community members ample opportunities to learn the most effective ways to respond to all persons’ surrounding their best interests and well-being.

Sanctuary Subcommittee and its parent entity, the Committee for Climate, Equity and Inclusion will regularly monitor the policies and practices listed above to ensure that students, faculty, staff and community members remain as safe as possible in their interactions with campus offices and functions. This Covenant commits the institution to conduct a three-year audit of policies and practices described above in light of any upcoming federal policies or policy changes. As emerging circumstances lend those measures a new urgency, we commit to revisiting and revising these practices so that they provide maximum protection to our students and give full consideration to due process. 

The Sanctuary Campus Covenant 2020 was unanimously adopted by Dominican University's Committee on Climate, Equity, and Inclusion on May 5, 2020.

1 Several of the policy changes that are most harmful to our students, faculty, and staff are listed below.

  • January 2017: Immigration and Nationalization services reduced the number of refugees admitted into the US from 110,000 to 50,000. (Source: AFSC).

  • February 2017: Executive Order 13780 suspended entry to the U.S. from countries that do not meet immigration standards under U.S. law. The countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The law allows the government to revoke visas from holders of passports originating in these countries.

  • June 2017: The Department of Homeland Security rescinded the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In November 2018, an injunction issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals maintained the program. In January 2018, a U.S. District judge ordered the administration to continue the DACA program. The case now pending before the high court is the Department of Homeland Security, et al. v. Regents of the University of California. The lawsuit filed by Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California System alleges that a rescission of DACA violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the right to procedural due process under the 5th amendment. Pending the outcome of SCOTUS deliberations, new applications and renewals continue.

  • June 2019: The Diversity Visa Program is a target for immigration reduction. Currently, this program allows people from countries with low U.S. immigration rates to apply for the visa lottery. Recently, the program was suspended for countries including Tanzania and Sudan.

  • July 2019: Safe Third Country rule. Asylum seeking immigrants who pass through a third country in route to the U.S. must first apply for refugee status in that country before applying for asylum in the U.S. These and other policies make qualifying for asylum in the U.S. extremely difficult.

  • January 2020: Countries added to the Travel Ban include Nigeria, Tanzania, Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus. People from countries under the travel ban may not travel or immigrate to the U.S.

  • February 2020: The public charge immigration policy allows the government to deny green cards to immigrants who are using food aid or Medicaid. These applicants are required to prove that they are wealthy enough not to have to rely on government assistance in the future.