UConn guidance on undocumented students must continue to be clarified

"Mr. Trump is not my President," was the rallying cry heard around campus on Wednesday afternoon, intermingled with emotional stories from students belonging to various minority groups on campus. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s plan for handling the deportation of undocumented students provides a welcome commitment to students, though the vague language used and lack of clear legal guidance require considerable clarification.

UConn President Susan Herbst’s Dec. 6 email to students responded to demands for clarification regarding university policies on undocumented students and deportation. While the university deserves praise for issuing a considered response, this isn’t an area in which ambiguity is permissible.

According to a Daily Campus article reporting on this specific UConn institutional failure, Trump is aiming “to cancel or allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to expire, exposing over 600,000 undocumented students to deportation. There are about 100 students attending UConn under DACA.” Trump’s presidency poses a clear danger to a portion of the UConn community. While this email provides a policy guideline, UConn must continue to be in contact with students about these possibilities and how they will handle them.

The email, “Supporting Undocumented Students at UConn” detailed UConn Police Department guidelines for protecting and interacting with undocumented students, with Herbst ensuring “Information regarding a person’s immigration status contained within the records of the UConn Police Department will not be disclosed unless such disclosure is compelled by law.” As Herbst noted, this mirrors the lauded policy of the City of New Haven.

Herbst wrote with detail where possible; however, intricacies regarding legal assistance or resources were lacking. While the President gave a comprehensive list of administrators, such as Chief Diversity Officer Joelle Murchison, to contact for “impacted students,” this would be of little use in reality. The University should seek to find contacts or resources at organizations such as the Connecticut chapter of the ACLU who would be capable of providing legal resources outside of the University’s own capabilities or resources.

President Herbst wrote “In the unfortunate event that a UConn student were subject to removal from the U.S., UConn would take all reasonable steps within its authority to ease the student’s transition.” While this is ostensibly reassuring, the lack of detail regarding how they would “ease” the transition especially as it relates to family ties and divided families, leaves much to be desired. This is an area in which absolute detail is needed. The email said the university would continue clarifying, which is promising.

The honesty shown in Herbst’s discussion of declaring UConn a sanctuary city as called for by both the Undergraduate Student Government and the University Senate is a welcome change. Herbst argued that, though there are legal issues with declaring UConn—a public university—as a sanctuary school, the university’s policies seek to protect all students, applying policies that mirror sanctuary city policies.  

Though the email from President Herbst came five days after the students’ request on Nov. 9, the response represents a positive first step. The university’s effort does not go unnoticed; however, the University must commit to actively adjusting their plan moving forward and email students when appropriate. UConn must begin work in earnest on behalf of marginalized communities anxious for their livelihood.