Columbia University announced a plan Monday to provide undocumented students with sanctuary and financial assistance in light of expected immigration restrictions on immigration in President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming term.
In an email, Columbia’s provost, John Coatsworth, pledged that the university would withhold student information from immigration officials lacking a subpoena and would bar immigration officials from entering the Columbia campus without a warrant.
The announcement was in response to Trump’s vow to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, a statute introduced by the Obama administration in 2012 that safeguards undocumented students from deportation. He also announced a plan to increase financial aid for undocumented students who may lose the ability to work, according to an article published Monday in the Columbia Spectator.
“If the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is terminated or substantially curtailed and students with DACA status lose the right to work, the university pledges to expand the financial aid and other support we make available to undocumented students, regardless of their immigration status,” Coatsworth wrote. “It is of the utmost importance that federal policies and laws do not derail the education of students whose enrollment at Columbia and other colleges or universities is made possible by DACA.”
Coatsworth also emphasized that New York City is a sanctuary city and that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently affirmed the city’s commitment to maintaining that title.
The announcement comes in light of the widespread “sanctuary campus” movement on college campuses across the country, in which activists have called for universities’ support in protecting students who may face deportation. Last Wednesday, more than 100 Yale students and New Haven residents gathered on Cross Campus to petition for Yale to declare itself a sanctuary campus for undocumented students.
Earlier that day, University President Peter Salovey sent an email to the Yale community affirming Yale’s commitment to protect against federal efforts that would prevent students from completing their degrees.
“We are already working with local, state and federal officials to address these important policy issues, and we will be monitoring any changes closely,” Salovey wrote. “As in all matters relevant to the university’s success, we will be engaging policy makers, in particular to assure that all Yale students can complete their degrees and go on to be successful and valued contributors to the nation and the world.”
But activists present at the rally said Salovey’s email, which did not explicitly mention converting Yale to a sanctuary campus, did not go far enough in assuring the protection of undocumented students.
In an interview on WNHH radio last Monday, Mayor Toni Harp pledged to uphold New Haven’s sanctuary city status, despite concerns about Trump’s proposed immigration policies.
Harp added that New Haven, unlike some American cities, does not have its sanctuary status written in its city ordinance. As such, Harp has asked her corporation counsel to look into whether Trump could withdraw federal funding for sanctuary cities, she said.
“We’re not going to back down, we’re going to fight,” Harp said.