Dear Campus Community:
In the week since I last wrote regarding the dramatic and unprecedented shifts in federal policy brought on by the presidential transition, the effects of President Trump’s executive order on immigration have been felt far and wide. With travelers stranded at airports, families separated, and our own international students and scholars facing unimaginable stress and uncertainty, I want to make it absolutely clear that I will do everything in my power to support and protect every member of our diverse campus community.
As I stated in my email to the campus last week, my administration and I remain committed to the welfare and success of all members of our community, whether they be student, faculty or staff, and pledge to do everything within our legal and moral authority to protect them, no matter their national origin, race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, disability or immigration status. Every member of the UMass community, including our more than 3,500 international students, scholars and staff, have the right to pursue their educational and professional goals in a supportive environment that is based on mutual respect and is free of fear, intimidation or violence.
As the implications of the president’s damaging and deeply divisive executive order on immigration become more clear, I am writing today to apprise you of a number of concrete steps the campus has taken to protect our international community as well as DACA and undocumented students.
- The university has joined in a lawsuit with the ACLU and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts challenging the constitutionality of the president’s executive order, which the Massachusetts Attorney General described as “un-American, discriminatory, and reckless decision-making.”
- We will establish an “Angel Fund,” supported in part by charitable contributions, to help meet the legal, academic, housing, living and counseling needs of individuals prevented from re-entering the U.S. while traveling, those who are unable to leave the U.S. as a result of the executive order, or those who are adversely affected by changes in federal immigration policy.
- We will create a task force to coordinate our response and provide resources to our community, including campus meetings and a website devoted to sharing campus communications and information related to executive orders and changes in relevant federal policies: www.umass.edu/gateway/federal-actions.
- Our International Programs Office has been in regular communication with our affected international students and faculty, including the two graduate students, one undergraduate student and a visiting scholar unable to enter the U.S., providing guidance and updates and relaying offers of financial assistance if needed. In the case of our graduate student unable to return to the U.S. from Iran, the university has provided financial assistance including paying the February rent on his Sunderland residence and offering to cover the cost of a flight back to the U.S. if he is allowed to return. His assistantship, formerly paid by external grant funds, will now be covered with university funds.
- We have joined forces with national higher education organizations (American Council on Education, Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, Association of American Colleges & Universities) to collectively voice our opposition to the executive order and to advocate for its reversal.
We also believe it is likely that more executive orders may be forthcoming that will further affect our campus. To ensure the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable members of our community we have committed to a number of additional measures:
- We will ensure that the Student Legal Services Office, which maintains a privileged attorney-client relationship with those seeking legal assistance, is sufficiently staffed to meet the needs of students who may be affected by changes in federal immigration policy. The office may be reached by calling 413-545-1995.
- We are committed to continuing our current policy whereby the UMass Police Department does not gather information about the citizenship or immigration status of our students or anyone with whom officers interact.
- The UMass Police Department will not voluntarily partner with federal, state or other local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law. Responsibility for enforcement of federal immigration law rests with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, not with local law enforcement agencies such as the UMass Police Department.
- We are committed to protecting student confidentiality and will not share private information about our students unless compelled to do so by law and after rigorous legal review.
- While the legal authority that grants in-state resident tuition for DACA students does not lie with our campus and we know of no plans to discontinue the program in Massachusetts, we will be active partners with our students in advocating for the DACA program should a reversal of this benefit be proposed.
- We have tasked our International Programs Office to serve as a resource for information and counseling for international students and others with concerns related to immigration and will provide additional resources to the office as needed. IPO may be reached by calling 413-545-2710.
Together, we will fight for our values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect and will not waver in our commitment to these ideals as we redouble our efforts to provide transformative opportunities for all who study and work at UMass Amherst.
Kumble R. Subbaswamy