Temple Organizations Endorse Letter Urging Support for Undocumented Students
More than 1,000 faculty, staff and students at Temple University recently signed a letter urging University President Richard Englert to commit to protecting students and employees who are undocumented immigrants.
The letter was endorsed by Temple’s Faculty Senate along with the Temple Association of University Professionals (TAUP) and the Temple University Graduate Student Association (TUGSA).
In the weeks following President Donald Trump’s victory, many undocumented immigrants have feared for their safety nationwide. This fear extends to students and staff on campuses across the country, including Temple University.
In response, the university’s campus community wrote and signed a letter asking Temple President Richard Englert to commit to maintaining a so-called sanctuary campus.
Englert himself has shown support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order that delays deportation for certain undocumented immigrants. He signed a letter in solidarity with over 550 college and university presidents across the country.
Both letters highlight the responsibility higher education leaders have in protecting DACA-status students and staff. Major points of emphasis in the letters stress the importance of Temple providing a quality and affordable education for all students.
The Obama Administration started the DACA immigration policy in June 2012 to allow certain undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
TUGSA Co-President Ethan Ake emphasized the need for Temple to remain a sanctuary campus and to protect its large number of international students.
“There has been a palpable fear among international students of what the new administration will hold for them,” Ake said. “Our concern is that there has been a lot of talk on the immigration front that affects a number of legal and non-legal students on campus.”
Ake pointed out that a lot of people do not realize that non-legal students are shut out of the federal loan system.
The immigration issue is also about work justice, he said. As a union, TUGSA is at the forefront of this issue because many graduate students also teach classes.
Being a sanctuary campus could come with obstacles for Temple, Ake added. If the university remains a sanctuary campus, the state may decide to withhold funding.
The other two sanctuary campuses, the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College, do not receive state funds, he said. Therefore, money cannot be withheld from those schools.
“There are a lot of strings attached,” Ake said.
While DACA does not provide lawful status or citizenship, it does allow immigrants to receive a social security number and pay federal taxes.
However, individuals of DACA-status are ineligible for federal and in-state financial aid, said Jennifer J. Lee, an assistant professor of law at Temple. To address this, one of the requests made in the letter is to change in-state tuition policies for DACA-status Temple students to be eligible for that aid.
Lee was one of the faculty members who signed the letter. She said the letter requests that Temple University not withdraw financial assistance from DACA students if the Trump administration eliminates DACA or similar programs.
Lee explained that students, faculty and staff came together to endorse this letter because they want Temple to continue being a nurturing learning environment.
“Part of that is providing quality education for everyone,” she continued.
Lee said Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools already enforce a policy allowing undocumented students to receive financial aid.
The letter also requests that the university not assist in deportation raids and not permit immigration authorities on campus without a warrant.
Because Temple serves North Philadelphia, a section of the city that is home to a large minority population, those who endorsed the letter believe the university is obligated to protect undocumented students with DACA status.
Lee stressed the importance of students renewing their DACA statuses as soon as possible because it allows them to work and to have a social security number. If Trump rescinds DACA, that could mean many students and staff at Temple could be deported.
“Temple is a unique school,” Lee said. “We’re a university that values diversity and educational opportunity.”
She referred to Temple’s founder, Russell Herman Conwell, who had a mission of providing access to education for everyone.
The letter states that schools are categorized as “sensitive locations” where US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are restricted based on a 2011 memorandum regarding places of worship, schools and hospitals.
This memorandum limits ICE officers by requiring any planned enforcement action at a sensitive location to have prior approval by one of several officials listed in the memorandum.
The presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College have already committed to these actions. Mayor Jim Kenney has also declared Philadelphia a sanctuary city.
In the event that Temple does not commit to protecting DACA-status students, Ake said that TUGSA will still continue to advocate for undocumented students.
“We do this out of our concern for social justice and work justice-related issues,” Ake said. “We’ll still continue to fight for that no matter what.” •