‘This is Serious; This is Code Red': California Colleges Vow to Protect Students Amid Trump's Proposed Immigration Policies

As the nation gets accustomed to the reality of a Donald Trump presidency, colleges across California are reacting with a comparable response to the president-elect's disputed stance on immigration.

Leadership representing the California State University system, the University of California system and Stanford University stated that protecting all students remains of paramount importance, but, at this time, it is difficult to implement policy changes until any new federal immigration legislation is actually adopted into law once Trump takes office.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Trump's proposed deportation plan puts undocumented students at risk.

"This is serious; this is code red," Newsom said Thursday. "If they're going to actually fulfill their promise to get 2-3 million people out, they’re not going to be talking about violent felons."

Chancellor of the California State University System, Timothy White, made a public statement at a Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday and an excerpt of his remarks, which focused on promoting a safe and welcoming learning environment, was distributed by his staff.

"The CSU will continue to comply with all federal immigration laws, but the enforcement of those laws is the responsibility of the federal government, not the CSU, and absent a legal requirement the CSU will not enter into agreements with federal authorities for its university to enforce federal immigration and hold requests," according to a statement issued by a spokesperson from the CSU's Office of the Chancellor.

Newsom applauded the chancellor for recent protective action and said efforts to protect student data need to be strengthened.

Republican Harmeet Dhillon is an attorney and RNC committee member from California. She says Trump is following the law.

"I sympathize with the students, but what we have to understand is what the law is, that people who are undocumented don’t have a right to be here in the U.S.," she said. "The president (Obama) temporarily suspended those laws."

Students and faculty members at Saint Mary's College of California penned a letter to the private university's president Tuesday requesting he make the Moraga school a sanctuary campus, but the CSU's Office of the Chancellor said in a statement that the school system can't necessarily abide by that word's meaning at this point in time.

"The word 'sanctuary' is a confusing term that lacks a universal legal or educational definition and, as such, if used could lead to misunderstanding and misplaced reliance," the statement read. "As such, the university remains committed to embracing the diversity of our students, faculty and staff with a focus on inclusivity and excellence and a safe and welcoming environment."

Administrators with Stanford are also struggling to determine what exactly a sanctuary campus would entail.

"There are many uncertainties right now around national issues, including immigration policy," a spokesperson from the Peninsula university said in a statement. "Stanford has long supported the DREAM Act to enable undocumented students to attend our institution and apply for residency. We do not know and cannot speculate about what laws or policies may be adopted in the future, or what the impact at Stanford might be. As a result, we are not able to comment on or react to policy that is not yet formed, nor likely to be enacted for some time."

Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system, addressed the organization's Board of Regents during a meeting Wednesday and, similar to the other education leaders, vowed to propagate protection. 

"But we already know our undocumented students may be at risk if President Trump erases President Obama’s executive policies on immigration, including DACA, which was a directive I issued when I was the Secretary of Homeland Security," she said in her address. "We have formed a working group to work through DACA and other immigration issues as they affect our students and our campuses. I will be meeting soon with our undocumented student coordinators, and will keep the Board apprised as we see what the new Administration actually intends to do."

Immediately following last week's election, the UC system asserted that it upholds the policy known as the UC's Principles Against Intolerance, which fight "to foster an environment in which all are included" and "all are given an equal opportunity to learn and explore."

During Wednesday's speech, Napolitano echoed those words and said, "The University of California will continue to pursue and protect these principles now and in the future, and urges our students, our faculty, staff, and all others associated with the University to do so as well."

NBC Bay Area's Christie Smith contributed to this report.

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