Yale, Ivies prep for change in immigration policy
The presidents of all eight Ivy League schools announced in December that they are preparing their campuses for changes to national immigration policy under President Donald Trump’s new administration.
The Ivy League leaders joined another 601 university presidents across the country who signed a letter calling upon United States legislators to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy — an immigration statute that postpones deportation or other actions by the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services for young undocumented immigrants. Implemented in 2012, the policy is expected to be assailed by Trump’s administration.
Ivy League schools have articulated the importance of diversity and education for all on their campuses. Each pledge of support has differed in approach, but all of them aim to respond to students who fear they will be unable to graduate amid changing immigration policies. Still, the promises from university leaders have not always satisfied the calls of community activists.
Many such calls have focused on the creation of “sanctuary campuses” — a label derived from the recent nationwide “sanctuary city” movement. Many activists have argued that sanctuary status is necessary for protecting undocumented community members, but some campus administrators have disregarded these calls due to the legal ambiguity of the sanctuary label.
On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order clamping down on sanctuary cities. The order, titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” will drastically limit federal funding to cities that do not comply with federal immigration enforcement agents. It did not cite any specific federal grants.
Below, the News compares the statements, policies and initiatives concerning the standing of undocumented students at each Ivy League institution.
On Nov. 16, following an initial statement urging the campus community to “act with decency” in light of the presidential election, University President Peter Salovey issued a second statement in which he addressed the condition of undocumented and international immigrants at Yale. Additionally, a group of faculty, students and administrators is currently exploring potential responses to any changes in immigration law under the Trump administration, according to his email to the Yale community.
On the same day, at a campus protest, local activists said Salovey’s response was insufficient and demanded he work to transform the campus into a sanctuary camps that “actively” protects immigrants. Three days earlier, a petition calling for the designation of Yale as a sanctuary campus had garnered more than 2,300 signatures.
Salovey responded to the activists in a column published in the News on Nov. 18, in which he alluded to the calls for the creation of a sanctuary campus, but indicated neither support nor opposition to that proposal. However, he did say that the Yale Police Department would align itself with the policies of the New Haven Police Department — which currently disregards the immigration statuses of residents, a policy in line with New Haven’s sanctuary city status.
In the wake of Trump’s victory, Yale has also launched a website that addresses the threat Trump’s administration poses to DACA. The site states that the University will provide support for and aid students navigating any legal or financial challenges that result from immigration policy changes.
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
At Harvard, where Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 had overwhelming student support, protests broke out shortly after the election outcome. Administrators responded with promises to protect undocumented students. But in a Nov. 28 statement, Harvard President Drew Faust said definitively that the school would not declare its campus a sanctuary, despite pressure from students in rallies and from over 350 faculty members who signed a letter calling for sanctuary status among other responses to the election.
Faust said she worried that such a designation could be counterproductive because it possesses little legal significance and could jeopardize the safety of students, according to the Harvard Crimson. Like Salovey, Faust reaffirmed the Harvard Police Department’s policies to disregard immigration status and to leave enforcement of immigration law to federal officials. Those policies match those of the police departments in both Cambridge and Boston, which have both declared themselves to be sanctuary cities. She added that the university would bolster legal resources for community members, expand the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program and continue to push for federal policies that advance the interests of undocumented students, such as DACA.
Faust’s decision against labeling the campus a sanctuary was met with criticism from both faculty and students.
Amid calls from the community for administrative action to protect undocumented students affected by anticipated changes in immigration policy, Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber said he would advocate for the preservation of DACA and uphold policies to assist undocumented students in completing their degrees. However, he said the university would not declare itself to be a sanctuary campus — a title Eisgruber said has “no basis in law” in a Nov. 28 statement.
The announcement came a week after hundreds of Princeton community members demonstrated outside of the president’s office and demanded that the administration declare the university a sanctuary. A petition harboring a similar demand gathered the signatures of over 2,300 people.
While Eisgruber said he was committed to doing all that was possible to protect students, he also emphasized that Princeton should not attempt to exempt itself from federal law.
And unlike at other schools that have had the freedom to stipulate whether university police enforce federal immigration policy, a 2007 New Jersey State directive issued by the state’s Attorney General mandates that New Jersey police officers inquire about immigration status when “there is reason to believe that the arrestee may be an undocumented immigrant.”
Police are responsible for alerting federal immigration officials in that case, the directive says. Town of Princeton Police Chief Nicholas Sutter said in a 2015 statement that the policy does not leave such discretion up to the local authorities, despite the Princeton mayor affirming the city as a sanctuary in July 2015.
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Columbia University announced a plan on Nov. 21 to provide undocumented students with sanctuary and financial assistance in light of expected immigration restrictions on immigration in Trump’s term. Columbia’s provost, John Coatsworth, pledged in an email that the university would withhold student information from immigration officials lacking a subpoena and would bar such officials from entering the Columbia campus without a warrant. In response to Trump’s vow to repeal DACA, Coatsworth further pledged to increase financial aid for undocumented students who may lose the ability to work.
In a Dec. 22 email, President of Barnard College Debora Spar issued a statement in line with Columbia’s announcement and asked the community to join her in “rejecting hatred.” She said the college would provide financial support and work to protect the “privacy and safety” of the campus community.
Both Spar and Coatsworth emphasized that New York City is a sanctuary city and that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently affirmed the city’s commitment to maintaining that title, which in this case stipulates that local police will not inquire about immigration status or turn over such information to federal officials unless a criminal conviction is made.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger has been vocal in his criticisms of Trump. In a February talk before Trump’s victory, he said it would be a “real pity” if Trump were to be elected, according to the Columbia Spectator. And in the election’s aftermath, Bollinger said Trump’s presidency would challenge the university’s “fundamental values.”
University of Pennsylvania
After facing criticism and pressure from students and faculty for her silence amid calls that she deem the University of Pennsylvania a “sanctuary campus,” Penn President Amy Gutmann announced that the school would “stay” a sanctuary campus in a Nov. 30 email to the Penn community, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian.
She said the campus “has always been a ‘sanctuary’ — a safe place for our students to live and to learn,” — and she pledged that the university would work to protect and support the community, including undocumented immigrants. Gutmann added that the university would not allow federal immigration officials on the campus without a warrant, would provide financial support to DACA students if need be, would maintain a set of advisors for students under DACA and would “continue to advocate passionately for comprehensive immigration reform.”
The Penn declaration of “sanctuary” aligns the school with its home city of Philadelphia, whose mayor signed a law in January 2015 restricting the cooperation of city police and federal immigration officials, thereby transforming Philly into a “sanctuary city,” according to the Daily Pennsylvanian.
In the days following the university’s announcement, many community members praised what some saw as a show of solidarity. Yet some said there was still more work to be done and that they were frustrated that Gutmann did not meet directly with undocumented students as they had requested.
Other students, some represented by the UPenn College Republicans, showed disapproval of Gutmann’s statement and the policies set forth. When the Daily Pennsylvanian reported on the release, the UPenn College Republicans shared the article on Facebook under the caption, #NotMyPresident.
Interim President of Cornell University Hunter Rawlings released a statement on Nov. 22 seeking to reassure students upset by possible changes in immigration law in the wake of the presidential election that the university would “ensure that all can participate fully and freely in the life of the institution.”
His release followed a petition that garnered 2,000 signatures and calls from 15 university departments, programs and assemblies expressing concern about the security of students protected under DACA. And an additional 50 Cornell law professors appealed to the University to support undocumented students, according to the Cornell Daily Sun.
Responding to these messages, the interim president released a statement on Dec. 22 outlining specific policies that he said constitute Cornell’s “commitment” to protecting students under DACA. Cornell would provide financial support if DACA were discontinued, would “vigilantly protect” student information from unlawful searches and would not permit Cornell Police to inquire about immigration status unless related to criminal violations, he wrote. Rawlings added that Cornell Law School planned on launching a program for students wishing to consult a lawyer about implications of the new presidential administration’s policies.
Rawlings’s addresses did not use “sanctuary campus” language, but many of his outlined policies satisfy the details of student and faculty demands. Cornell law professor Aziz Rana — one of the faculty members involved in post-election advocacy — recognized the concerns expressed by administrators at other universities such as Brown and Harvard, who have declined to take on the title because of the ambiguity of its legal significance. Still, Rana urged the university to do all that is possible to protect its community.
The election of Trump spurred protest and concern among students and faculty at Brown University. Brown President Christina Paxson and University Provost Richard Locke responded with affirmation of the school’s future efforts to support and protect undocumented students. But the two Brown leaders have been cautious in their pledges, noting in a Nov. 16 letter to the community that there are limits to what the university can do in the case that federal immigration officials present the school with court warrants and subpoenas.
On the same day, a walkout of around 400 students marched on the university’s administrative offices, where they attempted to present a list of demands to officials detailing measures to support students, such as refusing to voluntarily share information with federal immigration officials.
Paxson and Locke were not present, according to the Brown Daily Herald, so protestors taped their demands to the president’s door. The organization that led the event, called “Our Campus,” later expressed frustration with the administration in a Facebook post.
“The administration does not wish to listen to us. … We chanted for over 10 minutes. No one came out,” wrote Our Campus on the event’s Facebook page, according to the Herald.
Despite community frustration, releases from the president’s office and university webpages addressing “post-election” challenges to undocumented and DACA students suggest that Brown plans to take measures similar to those of its Ivy peers, such as providing additional financial support and legal help to undocumented students in the case that DACA is discontinued.
On Nov. 18, Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon said the school would take action to uphold standards of inclusivity and student safety in light of Trump’s intentions to discontinue DACA.
The announcement came in response to a petition released three days earlier calling on Dartmouth officials to commit greater support for undocumented students, according to the Dartmouth.
“We will work within the bounds of the law to mitigate any effects on our students caused by possible revisions to DACA and other immigration policies,” Hanlon wrote.
Details of those efforts are not outlined in the statement and no further release has been made since, but Hanlon pointed out that Dartmouth was one of a number of universities who filed a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the expansion of DACA during recent efforts to expand the program.
Dartmouth has updated a website with resources for DACA and undocumented students. It refers students to several legal organizations and says the school has “engaged the services” of Curran & Berger LLP — a firm that will provide free or discounted workshops, consultations and representation to affected students.
Hanlon’s statement said Dartmouth’s financial aid policies do not take into account domestic applicants’ immigration status, but it did not address whether measures would be taken to provide further financial support to student who lose the ability to work, in the event that DACA is ceased.