Protect Undocumented Students at Harvard
President Drew Faust
Harvard University
Massachusetts Hall
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

Cc: Provost Alan M. Garber, Dean Rakesh Khurana, Dean Katherine O'Dair, Dean Xiao-Li Meng, Dean David N. Hempton, Dean James E. Ryan, Dean Mohsen Mostafav, Dean Michelle Ann Williams, Dean Elmendorf, Dean Martha Minow and Dr. Paul Barreira

Dear Harvard University Administration,

Harvard University prides itself in its mission to prepare a body of educated citizen-leaders for our society through its liberal arts programming and its standing as the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States of America. As the preeminent institution of its kind, Harvard has remained committed to diversity, as stated in its mission, and to its aim “to remove restraints on students’ full participation” in the Harvard community. The actions taken in recent weeks by President Donald J. Trump make this mission more pressing than ever, especially for the undocumented student community, which has been particularly under threat throughout this election cycle.

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

Thus, we ask you: what does the presidency of Donald J. Trump mean to the undocumented students currently enrolled at Harvard? In the first few weeks of his presidency, Trump has already taken action against immigrants from seven Muslim countries in the Middle East, barring refugees, visa holders, and green card holders from entering the country or even boarding flights to the United States, a policy which affected several Harvard affiliates. It is likely that members of the undocumented community are next on his list, considering a leaked draft of an executive order suspending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) released on January 27, 2017. This order currently safeguards students from deportation, grants them work authorization, and enables them to obtain driver's licenses. Hence, DACA has opened doors for employment, greater participation in America’s democracy, and a unique sense of belonging. Not only is Trump an imminent threat to DACA, but his administration, specifically Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has already in mid-February begun conducting raids on undocumented communities across the country. President Donald J. Trump now possesses the power to materialize his words with the support of our Congress, making the repeal of vital immigration policies not only possible, but also a frightening reality in the near future.

For many years, Harvard University has admitted students, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, of many nationalities but who lack lawful presence in the United States for a variety of reasons. In addition to experiencing obstacles by virtue of their intersectional identities, undocumented students face additional challenges given their legal status. Not only are undocumented students ineligible to work, they are also ineligible for federal aid, for many forms of private assistance, for work-study programs, and face severe limitations in traveling abroad for research. Undocumented students are forced to navigate a complex legal framework on their own. Thus, Harvard’s lack of centralized support further complicates the experiences of undocumented students, ultimately leaving students and student organizations. Further, a mere website cannot successfully provide, allocate, and distribute all the resources undocumented students across the university need.

In admitting students from at-risk and marginalized communities, Harvard 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 support them and allow them to excel at Harvard University and beyond. Harvard prides itself on its diversity and inclusivity; let’s then support our diverse population in this hour of increased fear and need.

We write with hopes of opening an effective and productive dialogue between administrators, faculty, student organizations, and students. We believe that in considering the following suggestions, administrators will be appropriately responding to the pressing needs of undocumented students that have been largely ignored.

● Open a physical office to house and distribute financial, legal, professional, and mental health resources for undocumented members of the Harvard community, and hire staff people specifically for the purpose of running the office;
● Expand existing funds and establish a distinct budget for undocumented community members and community members in mixed-status families to cover fees associated with immigration-related legal proceedings. Make these resources known and available through the office;
● Hire a legal team, also to be housed in the central office, of professionals who are experienced in working with and supporting undocumented individuals and their families;
● Hire mental health professionals, also to be housed in the office, who have cultural competency in working with politically marginalized communities and trauma-related issues of familial separation and the chronic threat of deportation;
● Significantly increase the percentage of tenured faculty of color, specifically those teaching courses related to Latinx Studies; Asian American Studies; Native American Studies; Ethnicity, Indigeneity, Migration, and Rights; and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and reflective of experiences of working-class African and African diaspora migrants. Courses added should engage with the undocumented experience in a way that does not place the burden of instruction on Undocumented Students and/or Students of Color;
● Develop an approach to finding and funding research –in any field of study—that expands understanding of problems, which are causally related to undocumented immigration.

At this moment, we implore action that demonstrates this University’s dedication to concretely support all of its students, regardless of their immigration status. Undocumented students live among us, contribute to our community, and participate in intellectual life at Harvard and beyond. Harvard is responsible for their safety, healthy development, intellectual freedom, and safety from threats of violence, family separation, and deportation. We need action now, and we will be following up diligently with Harvard community members, including students, faculty, alumni, and the administration.

Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and All Concerned Members of the Harvard Community.

Department of Romance Languages & Literatures
Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Committee on Degrees in Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights
American Studies Program
Asian American Studies Group

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