Amid concerns regarding potential changes to immigration laws under the Trump administration, Yale administrators remain steadfast in their support for international and undocumented students.
Since President-elect Donald Trump’s unexpected victory last November, the Office of International Students and Scholars has reached out to international students and prospective international students who are concerned about changes in U.S. immigration policy, said director of OISS Ann Kuhlman. According to Kuhlman, a number of students have enquired about regulations regarding nonimmigrant student status, visa issuance and the feasibility of temporary employment in the U.S upon graduation.
“While there has been much speculation about possible changes, which is understandably raising concerns, we obviously don’t know what the new administration will do and when,” Kuhlman said. “OISS will work with colleagues around campus, including the Office of Federal Relations, to monitor any proposed changes and respond to any executive actions, if they occur.”
Upon beginning his campaign for the presidency in June 2015, Trump had been openly critical of the allegedly lax immigration controls in place under the Obama administration. He garnered significant controversy for his statements on foreigners in the United States, including a suggestion in June 2015 that Mexico is primarily sending over “people that have lots of problems,” like drug dealers and rapists.
With regard to specific policy interventions, Trump called for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration “until we find out what’s going on.” He later advocated for the introduction of “extreme vetting” of all prospective immigrants from regions with a “history of exporting terrorism,” including countries in the Middle East and North Africa — places that send over 100,000 students to the U.S. annually, according to the Institute of International Education. Data released by the University’s Office of Institutional Research indicates that 120 of the 2,635 international students and scholars enrolled at Yale as of fall 2016 came from the Middle East.
Kuhlman stated that in addition to corresponding with students, OISS has held several information meetings about potential policy issues, and created two new websites providing new information as it becomes available. She added that “as always” OISS will be in touch with students and is available to students who have questions or concerns.
Larissa Martinez ’20, a student who mentioned her own, and her family’s undocumented status in her high school valedictorian speech, told the News that following the election, she received an email from OISS indicating the University’s support for undocumented students.
In an email sent to the campus community one week after the election, University President Peter Salovey said that a group of faculty experts, students and University administrators had begun analyzing the many complex legal issues attached to potential changes in immigration law and exploring possible responses.
“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 said in the email. “In all matters relevant to the University’s success, we will be engaging policymakers, 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.”
Following the election, more than 2,300 Yale students and faculty members signed a letter asking the University to declare the campus a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants — a policy with little legal weight and explicitly opposed by Trump during the presidential campaign. According to the letter, becoming a sanctuary campus would prohibit the New Haven Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement from removing any undocumented immigrants from Yale’s campus. New Haven, like many major cities across the U.S., has previously declared itself a sanctuary city.
“Yale has promised to be a home for all of us,” the letter stated. “We owe it to the most vulnerable members of our community to do our utmost.”
Salovey addressed the demands for a sanctuary campus in a column in the News, emphasizing New Haven’s history of promoting the “safety of all who live here, regardless of immigration status.” He noted, for instance, that the NHPD does not inquire about a person’s status unless it is investigating criminal activity and does not inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or others who seek police help. Additionally, he said, the NHPD does not enforce the civil provisions of U.S. immigration law, which are the responsibility of federal immigration officials, and only shares confidential information when required by law.
Martinez noted that although the University has made an attempt to reach out to undocumented students in individual correspondence, public acknowledgement of such support has been lacking. She added that this may be because “New Haven is already a sanctuary.”
Still, Martinez praised the University for its efforts to make her feel welcome.
“Even before this election happened, the way that at least I’ve been personally treated, has been with a lot of compassion,” she said.
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said that his office has been working closely with Kuhlman and OISS to ensure that students facing unique pressures because of their country of origin, their cultural background or their religion are provided with the support that they need in the face of potential changes of policy.
He added that while there is an institutional commitment to support students, how exactly this manifests itself will depend on each student’s individual circumstances.
“We are really going to be an advocate for students, whether they are abroad and need to get back here quickly, or they need to change their plans about going abroad, you name it,” Holloway said. “We are going to do [whatever] we can to support our students.”