Policy Analysis,

Higher Education and the Trump Administration: Is there Anything Institutions can do to Protect their Undocumented Students?

Dec 23, 2016 · 2 mins read
Higher Education and the Trump Administration: Is there Anything Institutions can do to Protect their Undocumented Students?
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With the election of Donald Trump, colleges and universities now find themselves facing an unanticipated, but very real and very urgent problem: the deportation of undocumented students.

Institutions, and their students, are now scrambling to figure out how to navigate this unprecedented challenge. Petitions are circulating to make some colleges and universities sanctuary cities. Other institutions, such as UCLA, have stated that they will not actively assist in the deportation of their DREAM Act or DACA students. However, failing to comply with federal agencies or new immigration regulations may put colleges and universities at risk for losing federal funding. So, when facing the federal government, what public policy or recourses do universities, and these students have?

  1. Sanctuary Cities: 32 American cities are home to many colleges and universities; but, institutions, not being municipalities, cannot legally proclaim themselves a safe haven for illegal immigrants. Moreover, sanctuary cities ordinances do not prohibit local officials from cooperating with ICE or other federal agencies in the process of deporting undocumented people, it simply prevents the city’s law enforcement from initiating a search to determine the status of an individual or arrest them for being an illegal alien.

For those institutions that are located in a sanctuary city, they should immediately begin working with their local governments to create a response protocol in the event ICE initiates a deportation operation on their campus. Campus police departments and local law enforcement should draft memorandums of understanding to prevent potential jurisdictional issues.

  1. Create campus-wide, educational workshops: Undocumented students are often fearful to identify themselves under non-threatening circumstances, let alone in a time when their ability to remain in place may be threatened. However, helping DREAM and DACA students also requires knowing who they are in the campus population. Institutions should host workshops, open to all member of the campus community, in order to educate student, faculty, and staff alike about the options available to undocumented students and staff.

These workshops should include a comprehensive overview of the President-Elect’s proposed immigration policies, on-campus resources for both students and employees, potential legal resources, and applicable information for those who may have family that will be impacted by the new immigration policies.

  1. Understand and clarify campus limitations: Despite the special relationship an institution has with its students, a college or university responsibly to mitigate risk for studenets is limited. Therefore, institutions must be explicitly clear with its undocumented population as to what extent it can offer protection for those who might be facing deportation. To what lengths a university will go to protect its DREAM students cannot be a universal standard, but at least be predetermined to avoid confusion between students and the institution.

With the very real threat of losing federal funds due to non-compliance, the appropriate steps in which an institution should take to protect their undocumented students is unclear. However, this does not mean that troubleshooting this new issue is not feasible. At a minimum, colleges and universities should decide what role they will play in the event a student faces deportation before such threat becomes a reality, and inform their campuses accordingly.