February 10, 2017
TO: Campus Community
FROM: Neil Kerwin, President
SUBJECT: Resources and Support for AU’s Undocumented Students
Since its founding, AU has been a place that welcomes students and faculty from around the world and studies and advances international service. We value diverse global perspectives that enrich our community. I joined other university and college presidents to express support for public policies consistent with these values, including endorsing responsible global engagement and the DACA program for undocumented immigrant students. I offered five specific commitments to support undocumented students at AU, and last week, I added American University to the list of educational institutions and associations encouraging the president to reconsider the recent executive order banning travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations.
Given the fear, confusion and uncertainty amidst changing immigration policies, the university has received petitions from faculty and students to do all we can to support undocumented students, if DACA is suspended or repealed. We will 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. We reviewed these policies and practices after September 11, 2001 and have updated them in light of current concerns.
Be assured that AU will not disclose private information about our students, faculty, or staff to law enforcement officers unless presented with a warrant, subpoena, court order or other legal requirement. While our public safety department will comply with the law, it is not their practice to be an agent for or assist the federal government in immigration enforcement actions.
In addition, we will ensure that affected members of our community know where they can turn for guidance and support. On matters related to immigration, the Office of International Student and Scholar Services will provide referrals to immigration attorneys and resources. For those experiencing stress and anxiety, our Counseling Center, Faculty Staff Assistance Program, Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and Kay Spiritual Life Center are available to offer support. In the event that the DACA program is suspended or ended and authorization to work is rescinded, the university will assist currently registered AU DACA students to find replacement resources.
With these actions, we are committing our university to the protection of our undocumented students. As I noted in a previous communication, there are calls from members of our community to declare American University is a “sanctuary.” I have concluded that the findings of many other universities and respected immigration attorneys are correct, in that asserting such a status would have no basis in the law. The institution does not have the authority to exempt itself from federal immigration law. I share the concerns of others that claiming such status could indeed be counterproductive and lead to greater risk for the very students we seek to protect.
As we work to advocate for national policies and immigration laws that reflect the values of global engagement and international exchange, we will respect the rule of law and use every legal means at our disposal to offer our support and protection. I welcome ideas from the community that are consistent with these values.