Members of the Yale community have rallied over the past month in support of Melecio Andazola Morales, a Colorado resident who was detained for deportation just over a week ago and the father of Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18. At a protest last Tuesday evening, hundreds of students and local activists called on University President Peter Salovey to use Yale’s influence to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform on a national level.

Wielding that influence, Salovey lobbied last week for immigrant rights, among other issues, in closed-door meetings with White House policy staff and six U.S. senators across both parties. Salovey declined to name the senators and policymakers that he met with, saying that keeping the meetings confidential would prevent the politicians with whom he meets from “posturing for the coverage that they think will be given to the press in the interaction.” But, he said, the senators he spoke with showed “a lot of support” for immigration reform and improved higher education funding.

“Often the conversation with senators is about how to champion this agenda even in the face of a lack of support from the president,” he said.

In an interview with the News, Salovey said that, in his meetings, he urged senators and White House staff to offer legal status and a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act that would have provided similar protections for young immigrants. He added that the plight of these immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program elicited sympathy from senators across party lines and that many acknowledged the need for granting legal status to undocumented immigrants.

But Salovey said Republican and Democratic senators disagreed about how proposals for a pathway to citizenship should be enacted in legislation.

“Everybody believes that there will be some kind of compromise in which there will be a positive outcome for Dreamers, some kind of pathway to citizenship for many people beyond the Dreamers,” Salovey said. “But that will be coupled with some kind of proposals around strengthening border security.”

Although the senators did not mention the border wall with Mexico, a hallmark of President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many emphasized the importance of enhancing the nation’s security, Salovey said. His conversations made him think that comprehensive immigration reform would gain bipartisan approval when coupled with support for improved national security measures.

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, Salovey refrained from directly criticizing Trump and took a cautious approach to speaking about his administration’s policies. But as Trump weighed the elimination of DACA in August, Salovey wrote a strongly-worded public letter to the president urging him to maintain and defend the Obama-era program.

Just a few days later, however, Trump ordered that DACA be phased out. In an emotional campus wide email, Salovey vowed to defend Yale’s undocumented students. A grandchild of immigrants who came to the U.S. for a “better life,” Salovey said he would continue to advocate for legislation that offers permanent status to DACA recipients.

Many of the senators with whom Salovey met were aware of the Andazola Morales case and expressed support for him and his family, Salovey said.

Salovey noted that many of the White House policy advisors with whom he met — representatives from a group that works on education policy — had no federal government experience until this past year. During the meetings, Salovey said, he familiarized the advisors with university issues. He added that discussions focused on “pragmatics” rather than ideological matters.

Several members of Trump’s cabinet have no previous experience in government, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. When DeVos suggested reforms to Title IX policies last month, Yale administrators rushed to defend them, committing to maintain its reporting standards even as federal officials weighed revisions.

In his meetings, Salovey also discussed support for research and scholarship at institutions of higher education. He told the News that he emphasized the importance of preserving the academic peer review system as a basis for deciding funding allocation to prevent the process from becoming overly politicized.

Salovey said he would consider scheduling more trips to Washington in addition to the two trips he makes each semester and emphasized that he intends to be “a presence in Washington.”

In an interview with the News earlier this month, Salovey said Yale’s Associate Vice President for Federal and State Relations Richard Jacob makes strategic recommendations to maximize the impact of Salovey’s meetings with policymakers. Jacob did not respond to requests to speak with the News.

Presidential lobbying trips to the nation’s capital date back to late 60s, said Sam Chauncey ’57, a longtime Yale administrator who served as special assistant to former University President Kingman Brewster between 1963 and 1977. Brewster traveled to the Capitol to lobby against a bill that outlawed mandatory retirement. Over the course of his tenure, Brewster increased the frequency of his lobbying trips from once a year to four times.

In the first three quarters of 2017, Yale spent $397,000 on lobbying, according to federal disclosure forms.

Hailey Fuchs | hailey.fuchs@yale.edu