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‘Every legal means’: Burwell reiterates University’s support for DACA, undocumented students

As White House phases out DACA program, Burwell will not label AU a ‘sanctuary campus’

‘Every legal means’: Burwell reiterates University’s support for DACA, undocumented students

Student protesters march toward the Department of Homeland Security to protest a Trump speech on immigration on Jan. 25, 2017. 

American University will continue to support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students to the “full extent allowed by the law,” University President Sylvia Burwell said Tuesday in a memo.

The memo details the resources and support AU will offer to DACA and undocumented students following the Trump administration’s announcement that it will begin phasing out the program in six months.

“AU supports DACA students and will continue to offer protection to the full extent allowed by law, guided by policies that guard the privacy and safety of every member of the university community,” Burwell wrote.

The Obama administration implemented DACA in 2012 to shield undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. The program offered some 800,000 undocumented immigrants the opportunity to pursue a college degree, receive a valid driver’s licence and legally obtain jobs.

Burwell said AU will not disclose private information about students, faculty and staff to law enforcement unless the University is presented with a warrant, subpoena, court order or other legal requirement. AU police officers will not assist the government in immigration enforcement unless required by law, she said.

Burwell also stood behind the decision of her predecessor, former president Neil Kerwin, not to label AU a “sanctuary campus.” Some universities, such as Wesleyan University and the University of Pennsylvania, have adopted the term, but others, such as Harvard University, say the designation could bring unwanted attention to DACA students.

“We agree with the findings of many other universities and respected immigration attorneys that asserting such a [sanctuary] status would have no basis in the law,” Burwell wrote in her memo. “The institution does not have the authority to exempt itself from federal immigration law.”

She added, “I share the concerns of others that claiming such status could be counterproductive, and could lead to greater risk for our students.”

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion will be the primary point of contact for DACA students to access financial, academic or mental health related resources, the memo said. Additionally, the Washington College of Law’s Immigrant Justice Clinic will be providing legal aid and host a “Know Your Rights” information session on Friday at 3 p.m. in conjunction with the Office of Campus Life and WCL. 

Georgetown University also published a statement in support of their undocumented students Tuesday, offering legal assistance through their Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services and pledging to send letters to Congress calling for legislation to support undocumented students.

bcrummy@theaegleonline.com


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