Published December 22, 2016
At the University at Buffalo (UB), we are committed to fostering an inclusive and welcoming campus community where all feel safe, respected, and valued. These core values, together with our principles of equity and fairness, are the bedrock of our university community, and they are embedded in our policies and our practices. University Police does not and shall not routinely inquire about an individual’s immigration status. Nor do University Police make inquiries into the immigration status of students, faculty, staff or our visitors, unless there has been an arrest and the individual’s immigration status is clearly pertinent to the investigation. The university cannot refuse to cooperate with the federal government regarding immigration law; however, the university does not provide information to any agency unless required by law.
The university firmly believes that all students, including students who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program here at UB and across our nation, should have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals and their professional aspirations. UB’s mandate as a public research university is to contribute to an educated citizenry that is so critical to a robust democracy.
To once again underscore UB’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive campus community, President Satish Tripathi signed the “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and Our Undocumented Immigrant Students.” This statement of support, which was circulated nationwide and has been signed by a number of college and university presidents, is another expression of how we at UB strongly uphold the value of being a diverse university
It is important to note that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy characterizes colleges and universities as “sensitive locations”—meaning enforcement actions should not occur unless necessitated by extraordinary circumstances.
SUNY campus presidents do not have the independent legal authority to declare their school a sanctuary campus. Should action on this issue become necessary, evaluation will begin with the SUNY Board of Trustees.
The rhetoric of the presidential campaign has caused anxiety and fear among some of our students, both domestic and international. Some Muslim students have reported being concerned about a potential “registry” and being the target of backlash. Some students have expressed concern about their future prospects in the United States and about going home for the holidays and not being able to re-enter the U.S. for the spring semester.
It is still early in the current admissions cycle (for fall 2017); however, recruiters overseas have addressed many questions from students about the implications of the election in terms of how welcoming the U.S. will be to international students going forward. In addition, there are concerns at UB that in the short term we may see a downturn in international applications due to uncertainty about future changes to U.S. policy. In light of these concerns, UB staff has redoubled its efforts to reassure students that UB remains a welcoming and supportive campus for international students.
The Sanctuary campus movement calls upon institutions to pledge to refuse to cooperate with federal officials in the event the new administration seeks to deport undocumented students. A recent memo from SUNY administration to SUNY presidents has noted that there have been a number of inquiries as to what actions, if any, presidents may take in response to campus concerns about this issue. It stated that while presidents do not have the independent legal authority to declare their campuses “sanctuaries,” they may certainly take the opportunity to reinforce SUNY’s strong commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Undocumented students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have applied for and been approved for this program by the federal government and, therefore, are already well known to the government. There has been speculation that the new administration would cancel DACA, but recent indications suggest Congress favors the continuation of the program and the administration may not follow through with the cancellation.
President Satish Tripathi and many other college and university presidents have signed the “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and Our Undocumented Immigrant Students,” which President Tripathi described in his Nov. 22 message to the UB campus as “another expression of how we at UB strongly uphold the value of being a diverse university.”
President Tripathi’s message makes it clear that UB is committed to “ensuring a safe campus community free of harassment and discrimination, and to protecting the privacy of all our students.” UB’s policies in this regard, the president wrote, “apply to all members of our university — domestic and international — and all visitors and volunteers on our campus.”
The Patriot Act, passed in the wake of 9/11, mandates cooperation with federal officials on the part of university officials charged with immigration policy compliance — for example, around reporting requirements in the electronic tracking system SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Designated school officials (DSOs) at UB are required to respond to investigative requests from the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. Failure to do so puts at risk UB’s ability to enroll international students.
UB, and particularly International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), is both responding to specific student concerns and proactively reaching out to international students to reassure them. On Dec. 2, for example, ISSS held a “Post-Election Open Forum” that some 40 students attended. The forum allowed participants the opportunity to share their concerns and ask questions about possible developments under the new administration. Some deans have also organized forums and town hall meetings to address concerns of their students. The law school forum on Nov. 28 brought together a mix of UB faculty, students and community members concerned about the implications of the election and how they might respond.
What should always be kept in mind are the valuable and far-reaching contributions our international students, faculty and staff make to UB, contributions to our research, teaching and service missions. The international community of UB benefits all of us, enhancing the diversity of that community, our global learning opportunities and the richness of our cultural and intellectual life.