Dear President Hamilton,
We write to you as undergraduate, graduate, and professional student representatives of NYU Sanctuary, a coalition dedicated to protecting and providing for our university community in an age when the values that NYU espouses are under attack.
Attached to this letter you will find our proposed Sanctuary program in a side-by-side comparison with the existing programs offered or promised by NYU. We respectfully ask that you review our proposals by the time of our meeting on Tuesday, April 4th, 2017, at the end of which we hope to schedule a follow-up meeting to continue our collaboration in the implementation of our recommendations.
We have heard your claim that “Sanctuary” is a title without substance, an empty term lacking any formal legal status. We acknowledge the concern that to declare “Sanctuary,” then, might be to risk the emergence of a false sense of security on campus. Regarding this point, we take note of no evidence suggesting that the title “Sanctuary City” contributes to such a feeling amongst undocumented, Muslim, and other vulnerable communities in New York City. In fact and in particular, at NYU, many of those students most impacted by the Trump administration’s policies lead the charge for Sanctuary’s declaration. We do not deny Sanctuary’s symbolism, but rather embrace it as a critical part of its political force.
Since we last spoke with you about Sanctuary at the March 1st “Afternoon Tea with President Hamilton” event, we have witnessed tectonic shifts in the national and international political terrain. Within the past month, the president has concretized his Muslim ban with a revised executive order, released a budget proposal that decimates critical sources of funding and educational opportunities, and repealed protections for transgender students. His actions targeting healthcare, the environment, affordable housing, Sanctuary Cities––including our home, New York City––demonstrate an open hostility to our collective well-being.
We are no longer where we were on March 1st when we last met face to face; the call to symbolically and substantively establish ourselves as a Sanctuary campus is more urgent than ever. Indeed, given these shifting circumstances, we do not believe we are unreasonable to hope that you and others within the NYU administration might shift your position on the question of Sanctuary at NYU from the negative to the affirmative. NYU’s amicus curiae brief is a welcome sign that the administration now recognizes the untenable nature of this situation. We hope that our April 4th meeting will provide us an opportunity to present you with our suggestions for Sanctuary and to open discussions about how we might work together to implement them.
Thank you for reading. We very much appreciate your time and your amenability.
Students of The Sanctuary Campus Working Group
ACUTE & LONG-TERM DEMANDS:
Guarantee access to financial aid, housing, healthcare, legal services, admissions/hiring requests for students/staff/faculty
- Expand access to financial aid and employment for noncitizen students, including a commitment to need-based financial aid for those who might be affected by a repeal or change in DACA and meeting financial aid gaps for those who may lose federal assistance. Create a funding source dedicated to assisting students, staff, and faculty who are targeted. Commit to expanding the pilot program for undocumented students to include applicants from outside of New York State.
- Provide housing on campus for noncitizen and international students who cannot travel during academic breaks or who encounter financial hardship due to their immigration or citizenship status.
- Expand access to healthcare, mental health services, and peer support for noncitizen students and staff, students and staff of color, and students and staff who are otherwise specifically targeted. NYU will focus on the hiring and retention of therapists who are trans, queer, or are members of racial or religious minorities who can best serve these populations.
- Provide competent and expanded legal support, including translation as needed, related to immigration/visa status and discrimination for noncitizen, Muslim, and LGBTQ students and staff, those with undocumented family members, and others rendered vulnerable by federal, state, or city orders that contravene NYU’s commitment to diversity, freedom, and equality.
- Commit to continued admissions of students and hiring of faculty/staff regardless of entry and/or immigration status, national origin or citizenship. Facilitate the extension of international students’ visas by (a) lowering the required assets for and lengthening the duration of I-20 status, and (b) waiving status maintenance fees for affected students.
- Develop alternatives to class attendance for students unable to attend in person due to their immigration status; NYU should use the full resources of the global network for undergrads and grad students who begin their studies in NYC but are unable to reenter the country.
- Commit ongoing resources to create and sustain on-campus working groups to assess and address the evolving needs of undocumented students and staff, students and staff of color, students and staff with disabilities, LGBTQ students and staff, and otherwise marginalized students and staff. The development of these working groups should be directed by students, faculty, and staff who are directly involved.
II. PROTECTION OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNITY
Administration and Policy:
- Review data collection and data protection practices to ensure that information related to immigration and citizenship status is fully protected and develop protocols to increase security.
- Deny requests to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or other government agencies unless mandated by court order, warrant or subpoena. Inform affected students of such requests.
- Assure that NYU will not allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) physical access to any buildings or land owned or controlled by NYU to the full extent of the law.
- Prohibit faculty, staff, and campus security from requesting or recording information regarding an individual’s immigration status unless essential to their administrative role.
- Reevaluate the protocol for referring student conduct to the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies, in light of minor criminal citations and misdemeanors becoming deportable offenses and any contact with the criminal justice system leading to immigration enforcement, regardless of whether or not someone is convicted. Prioritize harm reduction alternatives such as counseling and mediation.
- NYU will neither monitor nor take punitive actions against students and staff involved with ongoing Sanctuary efforts.
- Require training for all relevant staff, including housing staff and campus security, on how to respond to federal agents seeking access and to develop a clear process for staff to follow in the event that they are presented with such requests.
- Following an incident of intolerance, such as Islamophobia, university officials will meet with faculty, students, staff, and faith leaders in the NYU community to develop immediate and long-term strategies to address these issues on a community-level, rather than on an individual case-by-case basis.
- Convey strong sanctions against violation of these commitments, including sanctions against threats for such violation as conveyed in the January 31, 2017 letter received by NYU Justice in Palestine.
III. PUBLIC STATEMENTS
- Publicize broadly that the NYU is a Sanctuary Campus. Clarify that at NYU this articulates a commitment of solidarity and support with all members of the NYU community, including through the policy commitments indicated in this document and any further steps that may need to be taken for the protection and support of the NYU community.
- Explicitly state a commitment that NYU will not cooperate with a “Muslim registry” or share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or other government agencies unless mandated by court order, warrant, or subpoena.
- Distance the University’s investments from anti-immigrant measures by divesting from companies or funds that stand to profit from these measures, such as private prisons.
The NYU administration will meet with the members of the Sanctuary campaign on April 18, 2017. At this meeting, the NYU administration will make a report on the progress of addressing these demands, as well as commit to future, regularly scheduled public meetings. These meetings will also offer an opportunity for the NYU community to also present emerging issues and grievances that are affecting their well-being.