The president of the University of Connecticut says her school is already a “sanctuary campus” for illegal immigrants, even though she admits it is illegal to call it that.
“Though the term has been defined and interpreted in many different ways, as a state agency, UConn does not have the authority to unilaterally apply this designation to itself,” Susan Herbst said in a letter addressed to the UConn Community. “The University must adhere to state and federal law.”
However, the policies we adhere to are more important than the label we apply; UConn’s policies and practices…speak directly to the fundamental aspects of being a “sanctuary” location. UConn is doing those things which are the essential elements of the sanctuary policies that have been adopted in several large U.S. cities. Those elements include: law enforcement policies that do not question the immigration status of those who seek police assistance, law enforcement not detaining individuals based on civil immigration holds, confidentiality of records that include immigration status, and the issuance of photographic identification to facilitate access to services.
Herbst said the school is “committed to being an inclusive environment in which all members of our diverse community can freely and securely engage in UConn’s research, teaching, and public service missions.”
“In recent weeks, many students, faculty, and staff have expressed concerns and raised questions regarding potential changes in federal policy that could adversely impact members of our community on the basis of their citizenship or immigration status, specifically those students who are undocumented,” Herbst said and continued with a plan for the “public affirmation of UConn’s values.”
According to Herbst, campus police have adopted a formal policy that they will not inquire about students’ immigration status. They will also not detain anyone on suspicion that they are in the country illegally or “on the basis of a civil immigration violation.”
“UConn Police will not make arrests based on administrative warrants issued by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other agencies for arrest or removal of an individual, including administrative immigration warrants and deportation orders,” Herbst continues. “Information regarding a person’s immigration status contained within the records of the UConn Police Department will not be disclosed unless such disclosure is compelled by law.”
Herbst said UConn would not create a registry of illegal immigrants on campus and would not provide any information about immigration status to others.
“UConn will continue its practice of admitting academically qualified students regardless of their immigration status,” she wrote. “The University will also continue to classify undocumented students as in-state students for tuition purposes when they meet the Connecticut statutory criteria for in-state tuition. This is in keeping with both our values and Connecticut state law.”
“[T]he University will continue to rely on FERPA [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] in denying requests for such information if it is sought in any context, including for purposes of identifying or locating an undocumented student,” Herbst added. “In the unfortunate event that a UConn student were subject to removal from the U.S., UConn would take all reasonable steps within its authority to ease the student’s transition.”
Herbst encouraged any illegal immigrant student who is threatened with deportation to reach out to the university diversity officer.
I recently joined more than 500 other college and university presidents in expressing support for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which allows undocumented students to enroll in U.S. institutions if they came to the U.S. when they were children.
In the event that DACA status were to be revoked or phased out, which in turn could cause this population to lose employment authorization, it would become even more important for this population to be able to access financial aid to fund their education.
Herbst said UConn continues to support a change in Connecticut state law that would allow institutionally funded financial aid to be awarded to illegal immigrant students.
“UConn will continue to vigorously enforce state laws and university policies against hate crimes, discrimination, harassment, bias, and any other form of mistreatment that contradicts our values as an institution,” she wrote.