A Message from President Judd About the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Policy

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Dear Members of the Sarah Lawrence Community,

I write to you today to affirm unequivocally Sarah Lawrence College’s support for undocumented students who are pursuing higher education through the protections created by the policy known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). In 2012, President Obama moved to protect the educational and employment interests of undocumented young adults who entered the United States prior to June 2007. Specifically, the President formulated a policy memorandum known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that allowed undocumented students to apply for protected status to remain in the United States. As President Trump considers issuing a new policy memorandum this week, it appears likely that the administration will move to eliminate or curtail within a certain timeframe the protections afforded by DACA. If that is the case, hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers”—DACA students and workers engaged in meaningful, productive activities—will face heightened risk of deportation unless Congress acts swiftly to protect their interests.

I write today first to assure the Sarah Lawrence community that the College will not change its policies regarding the enrollment status of Dreamers and undocumented students at Sarah Lawrence if DACA is eliminated or diluted. As a private institution, the College does not take into account immigration status in its admission decisions, nor will it do so.  As a matter of both practice and policy, the College does not record or track students’ DACA status. To reiterate principles articulated last year: Sarah Lawrence College will not voluntarily provide information about the documentation status of any student, nor will the College participate voluntarily in any effort by federal authorities to deport a student solely on the basis of citizenship status. The College is committed to using, to the maximum extent possible, its relationships with local, state, and federal authorities to protect the rights and interests of any student at immediate risk of deportation.

While the College does not record or share information about immigration status, we do know that there are Sarah Lawrence students who have chosen to publicly self-identify as DACA students. Let us all remember that DACA students were brought to this country as children. To reach Sarah Lawrence and other colleges and universities, they have shown themselves to be excellent students of excellent character. They have done so while enduring the extraordinary psychological pressure created by their status and without access to many of the resources of their peers. We strongly affirm the contribution that these students and their peers have made at Sarah Lawrence and at colleges and universities around the country. And we recognize and affirm the promise they hold of being vibrant members of American society. We also recognize that having accepted the promise of DACA status, these students now feel at increased risk. It is worth the reminder as well, that in addition to students who have publicly self-identified, there may be other DACA students in our community who have chosen not to make this information public, a decision that we as a community respect, understand, and support. It should go without saying that we affirm the value all of our students bring to our community.

Sarah Lawrence College has conveyed to members of the New York Congressional delegation its support of programs that protect the interests of undocumented students seeking advancement through college education. As a member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the American Council for Education, we stand with thousands of colleges and universities that support in principle and practice the right of individuals, whatever their documentation status, to seek advancement through higher education.

Sarah Lawrence will continue to advocate for students at risk through the potential elimination of DACA, and to recognize the benefit to our community and our society for a path to citizenship for these “dreamers”. Yet, at this moment in history, the most powerful advocacy for DACA students will come not from statements such as this by college and university presidents, but from the collective voices of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and families reaching out directly to their respective elected officials in Congress. If you feel strongly about the protections afforded students who may be undocumented, now is the time to convey your convictions to the Representatives from your home district. You can use the website house.gov/representatives/find/ to find your Representative and then send a message of your choosing on this issue. You can find and contact your home-state Senators at senate.gov/senators/contact/.

As your new president, I share the historic view of the leadership of Sarah Lawrence College, including the College’s Board of Trustees, regarding the paramount importance of the right of individuals of all backgrounds to enroll and succeed in college. As you know, across this inaugural year the College is addressing the theme of “Democracy and Education.”  A panel on Immigration and Citizenship, the details of which are still being finalized, is among the scheduled events related to that theme and I look forward to sharing further information with you as it becomes available. More broadly, the College is part of a recently formed consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education with Bard, Bennington, and Vassar Colleges. The consortium received a planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the development of curriculum to involve students in civic engagement both locally and abroad in relation to this global issue and the larger immigration and refugee policy questions related to it. Through public forums and initiatives such as these, along with ongoing campus conversations and activities, my hope is that we as a College will lead on moving such issues forward.

Finally, even as I encourage you to join me in addressing pressing issues such as this one in the larger policy realm, let me return to a more personal note, to express again our support for our students, our respect for the variety of hardships and challenges they have endured and overcome on the path to college, and our reiteration of the promise of a Sarah Lawrence education and the productive life to which it leads. One of those students, Moises Serrano, has shared his own story with power and poignancy. With his permission, I recommend it to you: forbidden.logotv.com.

Yours,

Cristle Collins Judd, President
president@sarahlawrence.edu