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Protect Undocumented Students at Berkeley
Contact Information:
Joel Sati, sati@berkeley.edu
Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee, shikha.bhattacharjee@gmail.com


Letter:
Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor
Carol Christ, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost


Dear University of California, Berkeley Administration:


Berkeley prides itself on a commitment to providing fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all. This commitment lies at the heart of Berkeley’s mission as a public university, and is a continuation of the campus’s longtime role in advancing principles and policies for a democratic society. The election of Donald J. Trump makes living up to this mission more pressing than ever, especially for undocumented members of our community.


Berkeley’s mission requires that the administration move beyond releasing a statement and implement concrete actions that protect all Berkeley students—especially those members of our community who have been targets of discrimination during a hate-filled and anxiety-inducing election cycle.


In particular, we are concerned about the mental health and safety of undocumented students. Undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) may be particularly at risk since in exchange for protection from deportation, they have submitted proof that they had lived in the U.S., undocumented, for at least five years. Not only does the DACA order safeguard students from deportation, grant them work authorization and enable them to obtain driver's licenses, DACA has also opened doors for employment, greater participation in America’s democracy, and a unique sense of belonging.


Trump has promised to eliminate DACA on his first day in office. While it is unclear whether or how quickly the Department of Homeland Security will take action against students with DACA status, we can only imagine the tremendous mental and emotional strain on undocumented students who face the looming threat of deportation.


We call upon Berkeley to take all possible steps to uphold the promise of DACA. In admitting students from at-risk communities, Berkeley has the obligation to provide these members of our community with an equitable and just education, which requires the creation of spaces and the allocation of resources that would support them and allow them to excel at Berkeley and beyond. Berkeley prides itself on its diversity and inclusion. Let’s then support our diverse population in this hour of increase fear and need.


We do not write to you, the administration and the University community at large, in search of sympathy or symbolic support. Instead, we urgently demand that you directly support our undocumented students at the College and in graduate programs by declaring the Berkeley campus to be a Sanctuary Campus or Fourth Amendment Campus. To do so stands on strong ethical grounds, in line with community convictions and even ICE policy guidelines:


• On June 28, 2016, the City of Berkeley renewed his commitment to ensure that Berkeley remains a sanctuary for immigrant communities. (Berkeley City Council Meeting, Item 48, http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2016/06_June/City_Council__06-28-2016_-_Meeting_Info.aspx)
• ICE Policy Number 10029.2 (https://www.ice.gov/doclib/ero-outreach/pdf/10029.2-policy.pdf) is designed to ensure that enforcement actions do not occur at sensitive locations, including specific reference to colleges and universities. Enforcement actions covered by the policy include (1) arrests; (2) interviews; (3) searches and (4) surveillance for the purposes of immigration enforcement.


Steps that could be taken to safeguard undocumented students should include:
• Arrange for on-campus housing in mixed use buildings so that undocumented students have the option to remain within campus bounds during situations of heightened threats of immigration enforcement;
• Ensure adequate resources for the Undocumented Student Program to serve as a resource center for undocumented students and students of mixed-legal status families, actively defending students from the aforementioned threats given the imminent, divisive political climate;
• Increase resources to the East Bay Community Law Center to ensure there is adequate support and resources for undocumented students and students in mixed-status families to cover fees associated with immigration-related legal proceedings;
• Ensure that mental health services at Berkeley are equipped with mental health professionals who have cultural competency in working with politically marginalized communities and trauma-related issues of familial separation and the chronic threat of deportation;
• Immediately hire a full-time Assistant Dean under the Dean of Diversity and Inclusion to specifically support undocumented/DACA-mented undergraduate and graduate students; and
• Significantly increase the percentage of tenured faculty of color, specifically those teaching courses related to Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Courses added should engage with the undocumented experience in a way that does not place the burden of instruction on undocumented students.


Further, as campuses across the nation are beginning to think through action to protect undocumented students, we are mindful that institutions like Berkeley may have a greater capacity and commitment to safeguard vulnerable students than public institutions that do not share Berkeley’s long tradition of inclusion and diversity. As Berkeley develops a viable plan to protect undocumented students, we hope that the institution may consider accepting undocumented students who are unable to come up with a viable safety plan at their home institutions as visiting students.


Undocumented students live among us, contribute to our community, and participate in intellectual life at Berkeley and beyond. Berkeley is responsible for their safety, healthy development, and intellectual freedom as well as for their safety from threats of violence, family separation and deportation.


We need action now, and we will be following up diligently with Berkeley community members, including students, faculty, alumni, and the administration.


Signed,
Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and All Concerned Members of the Berkeley Community and General Public

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