One day after the Trump administration decided to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun held an open forum for students to air their concerns.
The discussion, which took place in the Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona auditorium Wednesday afternoon, was led by Chun; the founding director of the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration and Head of Ezra Stiles College Stephen Pitti; Head of Davenport College John Witt ’94 LAW ’99 GRD ’00; and Office of International Students and Scholars Director Ann Kuhlman. About 60 people attended the forum, half of whom were students.
The forum opened with remarks from the four administrators, all of whom underscored the University’s commitment to recipients of DACA, the Obama-era policy that allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to receive work permits and avoid deportation. A wide array of administrators, from University President Peter Salovey to directors of the cultural centers to leaders of residential colleges and representatives from the Office of Financial Aid, were in attendance.
“We knew that the decision is causing a lot of distress, so we wanted the students to immediately know that Yale stands with them,” Chun told the News after the talk. “We wanted to be able to put a face behind that support.
At the event, Pitti said the Trump administration’s decision should be viewed within the context of the long and difficult history of immigration in the U.S. He also reminded students to look out for scams targeting vulnerable populations and “alternative facts” about what policies are being discussed at the federal level.
“We need to be ready in this struggle, to be in force in this struggle, for a long time,” Pitti said.
Witt advised that affected students should seek individualized legal counsel as soon as possible. In addition, the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, which played a major role in challenging Trump’s ban against people from seven Muslim-majority countries in the courts, has been working to reverse the DACA suspension in court, he said.
According to Witt, the clinic introduced “serious, nontrivial” arguments about the illegality of the DACA decision, such as legal constraints on administrative agencies’ courses of action and a potential violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Kuhlman said the attorneys, who have been providing legal support for students for many years, “invigorated” their availabilities after the presidential election, and most recently, after the DACA announcement.
Matthew Jacobson, chair of the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program at Yale, proposed in the forum’s question-and-answer session that Yale should consider establishing an emergency fund to support students and affiliates who face “unpredictable” circumstances, as well as joining forces with other colleges in Connecticut to deal with the DACA repeal. Still, he said the reaction to the University’s response to the DACA announcement has been generally positive.
“In a general way, faculty has been more satisfied with [the response] than with some other things such as Charlottesville,” Jacobson said.
Other questions that came up during session revolved around mental health resources for affected students, DACA application renewals, concerns about student employment and Yale’s involvement in ensuring that New Haven continues to be a sanctuary city.
During his remarks, Chun reiterated key points from a University-wide email Salovey sent on Tuesday which outlined the ways in which Yale will support students affected by DACA. Per the email, Yale will continue to admit students regardless of immigration status and ensure legal representation for students if needed. Yale will also adjust financial aid package, and the Yale Police Department will not inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or others who seek their assistance. The University does not permit outside law enforcement officers to access the campus without a search warrant or other legal authorization.
Chun said the Dean’s Office has been corresponding with administrators, including the heads and deans of the residential colleges and the directors of the cultural centers, both before and after the DACA announcement.
“We are unhappy but not blindsided,” he said.
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