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On Supporting Undocumented Students at CUNY

Several Graduate Center students currently teaching at CUNY have requested guidance from the TLC in constructing language and identifying resources to include in their syllabi for students who are concerned about their immigration status. CUNY has, over the past few years, significantly expanded support for students who do not have U.S. citizenship, and who may be undocumented. The university currently enrolls nearly six thousand undocumented students.

All members of the CUNY community should know that there are services at the university where students concerned about their status can find confidential assistance. Primary among these is Citizenship Now, which provides free, high quality, confidential immigration law services to help individuals and families on their path to U.S. citizenship. If students express concern about their immigration status, they should first be directed to contact Citizenship Now.

Getting students to ask for this kind of help is, understandably, a challenge. GC students Isaac Jabola-Carolus and David Pearson have shared the following language with those who would be interested in expressing support for undocumented students on their syllabi:

As an educator, I fully support the rights of undocumented students to an education and to live free from the fear of deportation. If you have any concerns in that regard, feel free to discuss them with me, and I will respect your wishes concerning confidentiality.

On Sanctuary Status
There has been much discussion and activism at CUNY around the desire to designate both individual campuses and the university with “sanctuary status.” It’s crucial that students understand what protections they do and do not have at both the campus, university, city, and state level.

To date, no university that has adopted the label of “sanctuary campus” has publicly declared an unwillingness to comply with federal warrants or court orders. Such a declaration is highly unlikely to come from CUNY at this point in time. The implications of sanctuary status at the municipal and state level are also quite likely to both change and be contested during the course of the Spring 2017 semester.

Any reference to sanctuary status in your course, then, should be carefully calibrated to help students understand the contours of the debate and the protections and resources that they and their families do have. These conversations are best done privately, and with a deep sense of responsibility. If you are at all uncertain about your ability to help students who come to you with concerns, please reach out the staff of the Teaching and Learning Center and we will connect you with offices who can help.

For ongoing updates on actions around sanctuary status and protections for students at CUNY, follow @CUNYDreamers on Twitter and check their website: http://www.cunydreamers.org/

Additional Resources