STORRS, Conn. – The recent election of Donald Trump thrust the issue of immigration to the forefront and has raised a lot of concern among students and faculty at the University of Connecticut about how potential changes in federal policy could affect undocumented students.
More than 500 students marched on UConn’s Storrs campus the day after Election Day, demanding the school take steps to protect undocumented students. The school’s Undergraduate Senate and University Senate have passed resolutions calling for UConn to become a sanctuary campus, and faculty and alumni have circulated a petition with more than 800 signatures asking for a concrete and tangible response from the school.
UConn President Susan Herbst sought to address those concerns by sending a letter to the university community Tuesday expressing the school’s support for undocumented students. She stated that UConn is not officially classified as a sanctuary campus, and as a state agency it does not have the authority to unilaterally designated itself as such, but the university’s longstanding policies and practices in regards to immigration status mirror those held by sanctuary campuses and cities nationwide.
“The University of Connecticut 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,” Herbst said.
Herbst stated that the university does not collect or retain information about students’ immigration status. There is no list of undocumented students, and the school will not create such a registry. Information about students’ immigration status will not be disclosed without a court order, judicial warrant, or the students’ permission, and the university will deny any requests for such information if it is sought in any context.
Students have access to all campus programs and privileges, regardless of immigration status.
On Dec. 2 UConn Police Chief Hans Rhynhart adopted a formal policy that reflects the department’s longstanding practice related to immigration. Campus police officers will not inquire about individuals’ immigration status during the course of their work, and no one will be detained on the basis of their immigration status, Herbst said. UConn police will not make arrests based on warrants issued from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and information in UConn police records about individuals’ immigration status will not be released to anyone unless compelled by law.
Impacted students can reach out to Joelle Murchison, associate vice president and chief diversity officer, as a first-level contact to assist in navigating questions and circumstances. She and Michael Gilbert, vice president for student affairs, will convene a meeting this week with campus colleagues, members of the Undergraduate Student Government and other interested students.
Members of CT Students for a Dream (C4D) applauded the support from UConn, but said that the university administration must be held to its words and take action to ensure that undocumented students are protected.
“We call on the administration to listen to and engage undocumented UConn students in the planning and implementation of proposed policies and practices, as they are the experts in ensuring that the undocumented community is safe and adequate resources are allocated depending on their needs,” said C4D Executive Director Lucas Codognolla.
“We will continue to hold UConn accountable in keeping our marginalized communities safe,” said Joseline Tlacomulco, an undocumented student organizer with C4D. “We continue our organizing and our pressure on the administration, to ensure that they follow through on the commitments outlined in their email and that they are proactive in supporting undocumented students.”
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