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Demonstrators in Milwaukee and Madison join Trump protests

Protesters line a banister at the State Capitol, after a march from UW-Madison protesting President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday.

Hundreds of people have signed on to a letter calling for UW-Madison administrators to make their university a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented immigrants in the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory.

But a university official says UW-Madison’s leaders don’t have the power to do what the letter asks of them.

The letter implores Chancellor Rebecca Blank and other top administrators to protect undocumented students and staff, as well as their family members and those covered by the Obama administration’s executive action on immigration, because they “face imminent deportation.” It was written over the weekend by Cindy I-Fen Cheng, a professor of history and Asian-American studies, as well as graduate student Sergio Gonzalez and doctoral student Laura Minero.

Students at dozens of colleges and universities across the country have launched similar efforts, according to The Washington Post, spurred by Trump’s campaign promises to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

“We see this as a concrete action the university can take to support and protect the people within our community,” the UW-Madison letter reads.

UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith McGlone acknowledged the concerns about the future of undocumented students and others, but said that Blank “does not have independent authority to declare the campus a sanctuary.”

The letter, which has attracted signatures from students, faculty, alumni and others, claims that Madison and UW-Madison police must have the university’s permission to enter campus facilities, and that federal immigration officials face restrictions from coming to schools.

However, McGlone said the state Legislature grants UW and Madison police officers the authority to enter campus to enforce laws, and the agencies don’t need the university’s permission to do so.

She added that UW and Madison police do not “routinely gather information about the citizenship or immigration status of the people who have interactions with police officers,” and there are no plans to change that practice.

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Nico Savidge is the higher education reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.