Letter to the community on undocumented students

June 7, 2017, 1:10 p.m.

In our first year as president and provost of Stanford, we have made it a priority to hear the concerns of students and other members of our community. In dorm meetings, town halls, office hours and many other settings over the last several months, we have heard about many issues on the minds of students. We welcome and value those perspectives – they are essential to helping us improve Stanford as an institution!

One subject our community has been focused on is the challenges facing those in our country who are undocumented. This continues to be a time of uncertainty and fear for many people who are undocumented, or who have undocumented family members. As a community that values inclusion, we at Stanford see and feel the very real concerns pressing upon the lives of many immigrants today.

As an institution, we have worked to strongly state our support for undocumented students and to make clear the resources and commitments the university offers them – including need-blind admission, privacy of records, non-participation in immigration enforcement activities and others. We also have advocated for bipartisan policy proposals such as the BRIDGE Act, which would extend protections for individuals who have been covered under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

We remain fully committed to including, supporting and protecting all members of our community.

We also always welcome suggestions for enhancements to our programs.  Students in the Stanford Sanctuary Now (SSN) group have been very active on this subject. We and others in the university leadership have met with them on a number of occasions to hear and discuss their valuable suggestions and requests. These have evolved over the months, but in the bulleted section below we have attempted to address the main issues, as we have previously stated we would.

A couple of important overall points:

As we work to support all members of our community, Stanford must comply with the law. Some university processes are legally mandated. We are legally obligated to employ only people who are authorized to work in the United States. We also are obligated to respect the collective bargaining process with the unions that represent some of our employees, and to respect the same process between our contractors and their employees.

In addition, Stanford is first and foremost an academic institution. Our faculty and students have extraordinary opportunities to explore – and ultimately to influence – public policy issues through the university’s mission of teaching and research. Where Stanford may not be able to implement a particular suggestion, it may nevertheless offer a great opportunity – via a course, a research project, a public service initiative – to advance the issue in other ways.

Here is how we have heard and responded to the issues raised by SSN, incorporating longstanding university policies, statements we have made earlier this year, and responses to suggestions that have been raised in recent months:

  • Creation of a separate website to bring together in one place information on policies and resources for undocumented students: We have implemented this suggestion at undocumented.stanford.edu. The new site expands on our immigration.stanford.edu website, which for the last several months has been a source of information on issues related to both undocumented students and the currently suspended international travel bans.
  • Operating a task force: We have had a cross-campus working group in action since January to anticipate and respond to needs of the campus community on immigration issues. Members of the working group have met with SSN on a number of occasions. When any member of our community has a problem or concern, Stanford will work to help them get access to support resources.
  • Non-participation in immigration enforcement: The Stanford Department of Public Safety does not have immigration responsibilities, does not ask about immigration status in the normal course of its duties and will not participate with other agencies in any immigration enforcement action unless legally compelled to do so.
  • Ensuring privacy: The privacy of student and personnel records is deeply important to Stanford. The university will keep these records private, is prepared to challenge inappropriate requests for records, and will not produce records to immigration agencies unless compelled to do so.
  • Providing need-blind admissions: Stanford’s need-blind admission process is and has been applicable to undergraduate applicants who are undocumented, just as for U.S. domestic students. The new website mentioned above makes this point and also makes clear that undocumented students are not considered international students in the application process.
  • Protection of immigrant workers from discrimination: Stanford has clear policies on nondiscrimination and equal employment opportunity that reflect our strongly held community values. The university is required to verify that new Stanford employees are legally authorized to work in the United States, but we do not request immigration paperwork other than as required by law.
  • Funding removal defense and naturalization fees for students, workers and their families: Any student who has a concern regarding their undocumented status can receive a free legal consultation from the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic of Stanford Law School. Other members of our community, such as those who have a concern for an undocumented family member, can receive a free consultation from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. In addition, the Dean of Students Office and the Financial Aid Office are available to consult with any student needing emergency financial assistance.
  • Supporting workers in immigration-related matters: A number of suggestions were made in this area. Stanford provides referrals to legal resources, as mentioned above, along with “know your rights” materials and other educational resources. The university regularly sponsors eligible employees for visas appropriate to their qualifications and roles; obtaining U.S. citizenship is a process that individuals can undertake at their own discretion. Stanford offers employees time off from work for personal reasons, but is not in a position to grant indefinite leaves of absence for employees.
  • Providing education and professional development resources for immigrant workers: Stanford has a long-standing commitment to providing employees with funding for their professional development through the Staff Training Assistance Program (STAP). The university also provides employee programs such as Stepping Stones to Success, which offers instruction in English-language proficiency and other subjects. We will continue working to promote awareness of these opportunities among our employees.
  • Providing financial and legal support to local undocumented communities beyond Stanford: University actions in this area are constrained by the fact that university resources – such as tuition dollars paid by students and parents – are intended to support the activities of the university. Redirecting those resources to external causes, even causes we might support as individuals, would not be appropriate.
  • Divesting from detention and displacement: This proposal is under consideration by Stanford’s established process for divestment requests, which involves review by the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, a community panel that provides recommendations to the Board of Trustees.

In conclusion, we remain committed to supporting every member of our campus community. And, we welcome continued input on this and all other issues important to the Stanford family.

—Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Persis Drell

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