An Open Letter on Access for All Students
Dear Campus Community:
It has been reported by many reputable news organizations recently that aides are clearing the way for President Donald Trump to take the first steps toward transforming the immigration system possibly as soon as he takes office tomorrow, fulfilling a major campaign pledge to immediately overturn President Obama’s executive orders to protect undocumented immigrants, while deepening the fears of immigrants and immigration advocates about what’s to come.
With a stroke of his pen, President Trump could also end Obama’s move to protect from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. More than 740,000 people voluntarily undertook a background check and received renewable two-year work permits under that program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). If the program is canceled, those permits could be allowed to expire during Trump’s first two years in office.
President Trump has also hinted that he will work with the Republican-led Congress to revive a proposal, formerly called the Dream Act, which would give some form of legal status to those immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. Nevertheless, several PLU faculty and staff members have been preparing for the worst case and working on resources, services and policies to support and protect our DACA students, as well as international students and Muslims, who are also apprehensive about potentially harsh restrictions.
In a Gallup survey this month, 41% of Americans were satisfied with the current level of immigration, a higher percentage than at any time since Gallup began tracking the issue in 2001. Amid the contentious debate over the issue in the last year, the percentage of people wanting less immigration fell to just 36%. I want to assure you that PLU remains firmly committed to the well being of ALL of our students regardless of their immigration status or their religious beliefs. We will do all in our power to provide a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment where intellectual freedom, religious freedom, and freedom of expression are honored. Consistent with our mission and our stated values, we commit to the following:
- PLU will continue to welcome applications from qualified students who are undocumented, including those who have DACA immigration status or who are DACA-eligible. As you may know, DACA students are eligible for state and institutional aid only. If DACA is revoked, we will continue to provide institutional aid to impacted students. Additionally, we have been in contact with the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), and we are not aware of any plans to discontinue state aid to undocumented students, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
- PLU will not voluntarily enter into agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies, Homeland Security or any other federal department for the enforcement of federal immigration law. Many U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) programs are based on voluntary cooperation with local jurisdictions, as the federal government has an extremely limited ability to force local law enforcement, other local or state agencies, and private entities to aid in the enforcement of federal law. See Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997, anti-commandeering doctrine).
- PLU will not voluntarily release any information to ICE or other federal agencies related to immigration status unless legally compelled to do so. A valid subpoena or warrant would, of course, have to be honored, but if the university receives requests for information that implicate individual privacy rights, we will protect the privacy of those members of our community in compliance with federal and state student privacy laws. We will not release immigration status or related information in confidential student records to federal agencies or other parties without permission from the student, or without a judicial warrant, a subpoena, a court order, or as otherwise required by law. This includes a policy that prevents university staff and offices from acquiring information related to students’ immigration status, and a policy against relaying such information to federal immigration officials.
- PLU Campus Safety officers are here to protect our students and the university community. Officers will not contact, detain, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis of suspected immigration status or to discover the immigration status of an individual. Campus Safety officers will not detain an individual in response to an immigration hold request from ICE, or any other law enforcement agency charged with enforcing immigration laws, unless doing so is required by law.
- PLU is engaging our network of alumni and friends who have expertise in immigration law to connect students to legal clinics, resources, and consultation opportunities that may be of assistance to them as they navigate questions related to immigration status and implications.
- PLU is investing in additional training to ensure we have capacity to provide responsive mental health and health resources to our students who may be dealing with anxiety and uncertainty.
- PLU will not cooperate with any federal effort to create a registry of individuals based on any protected characteristics such as religion, national origin, race or sexual orientation.
- PLU does not tolerate acts of discrimination or harassment against members of its community based on their citizenship or immigration status, religion or other status. PLU protects free expression of ideas as vital learning in an educational setting. Freedom of speech sometimes protects controversial ideas and sometimes protects even offensive and hurtful language; however, it does not protect personal threats, discriminatory conduct or other acts of misconduct that violate the Student Code of Conduct, university policies, or federal, state and local laws.
- Finally, we are establishing an action plan for what will happen if an undocumented student is deported, including how the university will handle their credits, financial aid and any money they have paid for tuition and/or room and board, and we will maintain their student status if they are forced to leave during the academic year.
All of these actions are motivated by, and indeed mandated by, the foundation of our mission: “To educate students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care — for other people, for their communities, and for the Earth.” I am grateful that our faculty members versed in immigration law and the constitutional rights of individuals are strong voices on our campuses, in our communities, and on the national stage. I am also grateful for the work in the Student Life Division, and in our Student Services and financial aid offices to provide resources and referrals to our students.
A web site has been created for undocumented students by the Diversity Center in partnership with units across the university. Please take time to read the site and spread news of this resource.
I will continue to seek to influence federal policies and actions through my service with the National Association of Independent Colleges & Universities (NAICU), the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), the Independent Colleges of Washington (ICW), and through my personal state and federal lobbying efforts. Our collective voices can powerfully advocate for justice and fairness and allow us to be true to our values and our commitment to students. We don’t yet know what will come from this new administration. These measures, however, have been reviewed by university counsel and will be in place until further notice.
Let us continue to be a powerful force for good in the world, and a stronger community in the process.
Thomas W. Krise, Ph.D.
President and Professor of English