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Provost John Coatsworth announced a plan for the University to provide sanctuary and financial support for undocumented students.

Bracing for a crackdown on undocumented immigrants promised by President-elect Donald Trump, the University has announced a plan to provide sanctuary and financial support for undocumented students, according to an email sent to the Columbia community by Provost John Coatsworth on Monday afternoon.

Coatsworth said that if Trump keeps his vow to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—a federal law protecting undocumented students from deportation and allowing them to work in the U.S—the University will withhold undocumented students’ information from immigration officials without a court-ordered subpoena, prevent immigration officials from entering campus without a warrant, and expand financial aid for undocumented students who lose the ability to work.

In addition, University President Lee Bollinger has joined over 70 college presidents to sign a letter asking the United States to uphold DACA.

“We’re in a period where we simply don’t know what will happen to a lot of students and faculty and staff with respect to immigration policy. There are lots of areas that are uncertain and it’s a deeply puzzling and concerning time,” Bollinger said. “Where we have opportunities to provide specific policy decisions like financial aid to students, we’ll think about these very carefully and act where we can.”

In his statement, Coatsworth said the University would attempt to provide necessary support to allow undocumented students to complete their education regardless of newly-enacted federal policies.

“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,” Coatsworth said in the email. “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.”

In the week leading up to the provost’s statement, undocumented students voiced concern for their future. Two petitions, which were circulated by faculty and students last week and garnered over 2,000 signatures, asked the University to set aside funding to support undocumented students if DACA is repealed and to prevent immigration officials from accessing student information or approaching students when possible.

Pressure to address the future of students protected by DACA mounted on Wednesday, when over 400 students walked out of classes and gathered on Low steps to demand a sanctuary campus and ask that Bollinger make a statement in support of renewing DACA.

The email sent by Coatsworth on Monday marks the University’s first official statement on measures to protect undocumented students since Trump’s victory in the general election.

Read the full statement from Coatsworth 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, you should know that the University will neither allow immigration officials on our campuses without a warrant, nor share information on the immigration status of 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 Arrivals (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 provide 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 also scheduling information sessions and 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 see http://universitylife.columbia.edu/news/2016/11/resources-students-and-other-columbia-community-members.

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.

Sincerely,

John H. Coatsworth

Correction, Nov. 22: A previous version of this article stated the letter Bollinger signed was issued by the Association of American Universities. 

aaron.holmes@columbiaspectator.com | @AaronPHolmes

columbia DACA sanctuary Undocumented students
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