Following Donald Trump’s presidential victory on November 8th, student concerns were raised about the safety of Columbia students who are undocumented immigrants. Trump has repeatedly threatened to repeal Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), an order that protects undocumented immigrants from deportation and allows them to work/study in the United States. Should DACA be revoked, immigrants who were protected (those who had arrived before they turned 16 years old and had no documentation prior to January 2012) would be at risk of deportation.
In the week following the election, Columbia students organized petitions to President Bollinger and Provost John Coatsworth, requesting that the university develop arrangements to ensure that undocumented students will be protected in the event of a DACA repeal and make Columbia a sanctuary campus.
At 4:33 PM this afternoon, Columbia University’s provost released a statement affirming that immigration officials would not be allowed on Columbia’s campus without a warrant, that student information would not be shared with officials unless subpoenaed, and that undocumented students would be afforded additional financial aid and support should DACA be repealed.
You can read the full email below:
Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:
The presidential election has prompted intense concern for the values we hold dear and for members of our community who are apprehensive about what the future holds. Some of this concern is focused on possible changes to immigration laws and to the federal enforcement of those laws. Some is due to possible changes elsewhere in federal law and policy. Reports of bias crimes and harassment occurring since the election are also deeply disturbing, particularly so when those who feel threatened are part of a community like ours, committed to tolerance and reason.
President Bollinger has asked me to work with the University administration and our community to develop a response to these concerns. I am writing to share information about relevant policies and our plans for ensuring that every person at Columbia feels safe, is able to proceed unimpeded with their studies and their work, and understands beyond question that Columbia’s dedication to inclusion and diversity is and will remain unwavering.
First, the University will neither allow immigration officials on our campuses without a warrant, nor share information on the immigration status of undocumented students with those officials unless required by subpoena or court order, or authorized by a student. Moreover, New York City continues to be a sanctuary city, with special protections for undocumented immigrants, and Mayor de Blasio recently affirmed that local law enforcement officials will continue to operate consistent with that commitment.
If the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) policy is terminated or substantially curtailed and students with DACA status lose the right to work, the University pledges to expand the financial aid and other support we make available to undocumented students, regardless of their immigration status. It is of the utmost importance that federal policies and laws do not derail the education of students whose enrollment at Columbia and other colleges or universities is made possible by DACA. We subscribe to the view of the Association of American Universities that “DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded,” and we will continue to express that commitment in the future.
To provide additional support, the Office of University Life is hosting a series of small-group, private information sessions specifically for undocumented students in our community, including DACA recipients, to offer support and guidance regarding possible changes in the law. Affected students can contact the Office directly for more information. Separately, our International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) is scheduling information sessions and is prepared to provide assistance via its telephone helplines to any of our international students with questions or concerns. For more information about resources, support, and reporting options regarding discrimination and harassment, please visit the Office of University Life website.
The commitments outlined above emerge from values that define what we stand for and who we are as a University community. Indeed, Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have amplified their commitment to undocumented undergraduate students pursuing their first degrees by continuing to meet their full financial aid needs as has long been our policy and also by treating applications of undocumented students no differently than those of students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The experience of undocumented students at the College and Columbia Engineering, from the time they first seek admission through their graduation, will not be burdened in any way by their undocumented status.
This is a moment for us to bear in mind how important it is to protect all who study and teach in our community and to defend the institution and the values it embodies.
John H. Coatsworth