Protecting and Supporting All Members of Our Community
February 7, 2017
Dear Students, Staff and Faculty:
Amid continued volatility in U.S. immigration policy, I remain deeply committed to protecting and supporting all members of our community. Like so many of you, I am especially focused on rights and protections for undocumented students as well as those from the seven countries targeted in the president’s recent travel ban. I write to reaffirm my commitments to the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and faculty and to respond to questions and proposals raised in recent weeks by members of our community. I am especially grateful to the student group Organizing for Undocumented Students’ Rights or OUSR.
Building on actions identified in my Nov. 28, 2016, letter to the community, we will:
- Provide equal access to institutional need-based financial aid and campus employment for undocumented students studying in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. In making admission decisions, we evaluate undocumented and DACA students under the same procedures and requirements we use for first-year or transfer admission for U.S. citizens.
- Take no voluntary action that would put members of our community at risk because of their citizenship or immigration status.
- Resist releasing information about students’ citizenship or immigration status unless we are legally compelled to do so; if presented with a subpoena or other imperative, we will seek legal counsel before taking any steps to comply.
- Advise Campus Police that enforcement of current federal immigration law is outside their authority and must be left to federal officials.
- Continue our practice of strictly limiting the use of eVerify, the online system that cross-checks employment eligibility with the Department of Homeland Security, so that it is used only when we are legally required to do so—in the context of federal research contracts, given that such contracts provide valuable research opportunities for faculty and students. We will not use eVerify for routine matters, such as work-study employment. Further, we will counsel students and employees joining contracted projects on the potential risks of eVerify so that they can make informed decisions about their participation.
- Facilitate access to legal counsel for undocumented students and for international students affected by the travel ban.
- Provide students with need-based, financial support to cover the costs of meeting immigration application fees as necessary.
- Facilitate finding year-round housing for international students, potentially on campus or through the alumnae network, if any cannot go home because of travel bans.
- Continue to strengthen capacity across our campus, including in our counseling services, to support undocumented students and those facing concerns about deportation and familial separation. For example, an Innovation Challenge grant is funding an identity support project in our Wellness Office; another is supporting refugee-specific training for clinicians through our School for Social Work.
- Encourage employees affected by these issues to use Human Resources, the Provost's Office and the Office of International Students and Scholars, as well as our Employee Assistance Program.
In recent weeks, I joined a number of collective actions in support of international and undocumented students and scholars. I signed the American Council on Education (ACE) letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly objecting to the president’s travel ban and explaining why the ban hurts U.S. colleges and universities and the communities they serve. In addition, I signed the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) petition against the president’s travel ban and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) petition to “make women's priorities America's priorities.” Such actions are both symbolic and substantive; I have been heartened to see the effect of citizens’ and organizations’ public actions in rolling back proposals and actions antithetical to our values as a scholarly community.
I remain adamantly committed to nondiscrimination in access to education regardless of citizenship or immigration status. One legislative effort in this area is the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy or BRIDGE Act, a bipartisan bill recently introduced by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL). If passed, the BRIDGE Act would extend protections to DACA students if that program is abolished.
I will continue to keep you informed on developments affecting those potentially at risk in the Smith community and beyond.