UConn supports undocumented students

Willimantic and Windham residents gather in in Willimantic to show their support for undocumented students and immigrants in the face of Donald J Trump's inauguration.  The protest was created by Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon and Embracing The Same Dream, Windham Area Progressive Action, CT Students For a Dream, and CT Immigrants Rights Alliance. The march started near the famous frog bridge ended at Town Hall.  (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

University of Connecticut officials have expressed their support for undocumented students in multiple ways over the past few months, including the development of protocols and programs for those who may face deportation.

UConn President Susan Herbst first affirmed the university’s support for undocumented students in a Dec. 6 university-wide announcement.

“At this time, the information provided in December remains current,” University Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said in a Feb. 17 email.

In a Jan. 28 university-wide announcement regarding UConn’s commitment to its international students and faculty in light of President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order, Herbst again included a link to her December announcement.

Individual's immigration status will not be asked about as UConn Police go about their duties, Herbst said in the December announcement.

“UConn Police will not inquire about individuals’ immigration status during the course of their work, including crime victims, witnesses and anyone who seeks assistance from the police,” Herbst said in the December announcement. “No one will be detained by UConn Police based solely on the belief that they are not in the U.S. legally or on the basis of a civil immigration violation.”

Individuals will not be arrested due to Immigration and Customs Enforcement administrative warrants, according to Herbst in the December announcement.

“UConn Police will not make arrests based on administrative warrants issued by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other agencies for arrest or removal of an individual, including administrative immigration warrants and deportation orders,” Herbst said in the December announcement. “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.”

UConn will support a student if she or he is required to leave the U.S., Herbst wrote in the December announcement.

“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,” Herbst said in the December announcement. “These may include assistance in placing the student with a foreign institution, including one of UConn’s global partner institutions; guiding them in continuing their studies through distance learning; and expedited readmission if they return to UConn, as appropriate for each individual circumstance and each individual student.”

Currently, UConn does not keep a list or a registry of undocumented students, Reitz said. Students do not disclose their immigration status when they apply to UConn, she said.

“The University’s primary interest is whether its applicants and students are academically talented and would thrive as part of the UConn community,” Reitz said. “We have no need to inquire about their immigration status because it isn’t relevant to that.”

Student’s Social Security numbers are not required when applying to UConn, Reitz said.

According to the UConn Undergraduate Admissions website, all students regardless of status are eligible for in-state tuition if they are a resident of Connecticut and have attended at least two years of a Connecticut high school.

While undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid, private scholarships through outside institutions can be awarded to these students, according to Undergraduate Admissions.

The University’s primary interest is whether its applicants and students are academically talented and would thrive as part of the UConn community.
— University Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz

So far UConn’s response and actions have been sufficient in helping protect undocumented students, according to Eric Cruz-Lopez, who is an advocate for undocumented students. However, he said this response was solely because of activism and pressure from students.

“I think (UConn) has had an adequate response after pressure from student groups,” Lopez said. “Everything they’ve done so far is because of organizations on campus and in the state.”

Lopez, who is undocumented himself, works with organizations that support undocumented students such as CT Students for a Dream and has attended multiple hearings and rallies in order to advocate for undocumented students’ rights.

Lopez is currently working with on a collaboration USG and the School of Law to bring legal services to undocumented students. This will help students get access to a lawyer if they are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, Lopez said, and is being supporting by the UConn administration as it develops.

The event, which will be held on March 28 according to USG President Dan Byrd, will involve UConn law school alumni pairing up with undocumented students whose families may be in need of legal services if they are under threat of deportation, and is currently being developed by a working group within USG, according to Byrd.

Even with these support programs, Lopez said, advocacy from fellow students will help out the most.

“Work with and talk to other folks,” Lopez said. “Dispel the myths that portray (immigrants) as evil, or as criminals. It’s exhausting to me as an undocumented (to defend myself). Take the burden of educating your peers.”

Lopez also encouraged students to volunteer and fundraise for organizations that support undocumented students such as CT Students for a Dream.

Lopez said he hopes to continue helping undocumented students on campus.

“We’re looking forward to engaging with the student body and equalizing education for everyone,” Lopez said.


Alexandra Retter is staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.retter@uconn.edu.


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.