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BU Will Not Share Info on Undocumented Students

Will obey a court order, cannot bar immigration officials from campus

Dr. Robert A. Brown, President, Boston University, BU

More than 2,000 members of the BU community asked the University to declare itself a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented students. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Boston University will not share information about any undocumented students with immigration authorities unless those authorities have a subpoena or a warrant, President Robert A. Brown announced in a letter to the BU community Monday. Brown noted that it is not possible to bar federal immigration officials from entering campus, “as the University must obey the applicable state and federal laws.”

The president’s announcement followed a petition from students, staff, and alumni, signed by more than 2,000 people, asking BU to declare itself a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented students. Similar efforts have emerged on campuses nationwide after president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Obama’s program of protecting from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

“It is our long-standing practice that we do not solicit or record information about the immigration status of our students,” Brown wrote, “with the exception of information we are required to maintain on international students who study here on student or exchange visas. To date, we have not been asked by any public authorities to provide information about students who might be undocumented. And going forward, we will not share information about such students unless we are specifically required to do so because of a duly issued warrant or subpoena. If students self-identify to the University as undocumented, we will provide advice and counsel as appropriate and on a case-by-case basis. We will not volunteer information about such students.

“Those calling for the University to become a ‘sanctuary campus’ have asked that we bar representatives of federal agencies…from entering any part of our campus and from enforcing federal immigration law on our campus. This is not a promise we can make….I can, however, assure you that the Boston University Police Department does not currently play any role in the enforcement of such laws and will not voluntarily assist the federal government in immigration enforcement. To the extent that our police become aware of such enforcement activities on our campus, they will require a judicially sanctioned warrant before allowing access to any University building.”

Last month, Brown cosigned an open letter from more than 200 higher education leaders across the country asking government officials to leave DACA unaltered. During his campaign, Trump criticized as unconstitutional the Obama administration program that grants temporary permission to live and work in the country to 700,000 young people whose parents brought then here illegally as children. He recently relaxed, without reversing, his rhetoric about deporting those people.

If DACA is ended or curbed, Brown wrote in his letter, BU will continue to provide support to affected students “as is consistent with the definitions of the DACA statute.” He said the University’s International Students & Scholars office can advise students who have concerns about their status.

“We’re happy to see the administration is acknowledging the concerns we have. We’ll look forward to continuing the dialogue,” says Marwa Sayed (CAS’17, SPH’18), an organizer of the petition. “We feel this is actually the beginning of the conversation.”

“Sanctuary campus” is not a defined term in US law, Sayed says, adding that petition organizers were not aware that the BUPD does not assist immigration officials without a court order. She and other organizers will talk to peers at other campuses, she says, and decide how to proceed next semester.

Another organizer, Kimberly Barzola (CAS’17), says students behind the petition might seek a meeting with Brown to discuss their concerns and others that weren’t listed in the petition, such as financial aid and administrative support for undocumented students. “I’m really happy that there was a response” from Brown, she says. “What I think we were looking for is a more formal invitation to speak to the president….Ideally, we would like to have a conversation.”

The BU petition, endorsed by the Student Government, reads in part, “Boston University has a rich and storied history of inclusivity and diversity, a history which we wish to honor and carry forward.” It cited Brown’s November postelection letter to the community calling for respect for all genders, races, religions, and places of origin.

“As we navigate the particular challenges posed by possible legal and regulatory changes,” Brown wrote in his latest letter, “this commitment will be our North Star.”

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

19 Comments on BU Will Not Share Info on Undocumented Students

  • 1 on 12.13.2016 at 10:16 am

    Can someone tell me why illegal immigrants have better treatment than us legal immigrants (international students)? We can’t work outside campus and we have no federal aid. But they have it all! How does that makes any sense? If you Americans are going to treat them as citizens make them citizens, why do they enjoy such high treatment even if they clearly broke the law?

    • An International Alumn on 12.13.2016 at 11:18 am

      Your lack of empathy is astounding. Undocumented immigrants in the United States have largely different circumstances that lead them to the United States to seek opportunities. The immigration process is so difficult and complicated and not everyone has the economic or social luxury to wait when their very livelihoods are on the line. Contrary to your narrow-minded comment, these people do not have it all. In fact, their dire circumstances are often what lead them to search for a better life. Also, a basic perusing of the United States immigration system might be useful to you.

      You may be just ignorant or blinded by your own privileges, but please, do not try to pit international students against undocumented immigrants in this country.

      • MVT on 12.13.2016 at 12:08 pm

        Dear International Alumn:

        On the contrary, you seem to be very judgemental. How can you judge a person who raised a genuine question to be privileged and entitled? Shooting the messenger? Seriously, can you come up with a single metric for ‘privilege’ considering social, economic and other factors? On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you compare the privilege of an undocumented immigrant who was lucky enough to be in US from an early age, to a an international student from a poor financial background from a third-world country? Unless you quantify something, which is what exact sciences do, your statements (lecturing) sound very condescending.


        • CMC on 12.13.2016 at 1:47 pm

          Well said MVT. I would also like to add that illegal immigrants in California are treated better than Veteran’s and Disabled Veterans by the state of California when it comes to tuition, etc… The state gives us nothing and we have to rely on our GI Bill. Illegals get state subsidized tuition and grants.

      • 1 on 12.13.2016 at 1:57 pm

        First of all I didn’t not insult any illegal immigrants. I do not know why it makes you so angry that you result to personal insult.
        Secondly if I just simply overstay my VISA I would also be an illegal immigrant. Why should I receive more rights when I broke the law? Again I understand they might be experiencing hardship, I am not calling for a total deportation of everyone. But seriously I am an immigrant too. Why does the fact that they broke the law give them more rights? I’d like someone to address that instead of just resulting to name calling. This is a college campus that is supposed to have civil logical discussions instead of just insults.

        • KP on 12.13.2016 at 3:33 pm

          There may be some issue in the causality of breaking the law. This specific act to which has been cited (the DACA act) is for those children who’s parents brought them to the United States as a young age through illegal means. While illegal immigration is an issue within this country, it is wrong to fault and punish a child trying to seek an education for what their parents may have done incorrectly.

          To say that a child should be punished because of the situation they are brought up in is a moral question you have to ask yourself, and in doing so, should you shoulder the burden of mistakes your parents or ancestors have made at any point in your past? Illegal immigrants, if you do the research, do not get special rates for their tuition or other commodities. They are given the ability to get in-state tuition for the state of their residence, a right granted to every in-state student. They are given, in a handful of states, access to state-based financial relief. Both of these stipulate that the student must have some proof of residence (though not legal status) in that state for the same number of years as legal residents, as well as proof of a GED or HS Diploma. There are private funds that have been established, free of federal money that are created for these students. If you are mad at these scholarships, what about other specific ones. Why should left handed people be entitled to specific scholarships, POC, etc. Many international students have access to different private scholarships as well, whether they can find them, and apply is no different than any other scholarship anyone is eligible for based on their criterion.

          The big difference, in my honest opinion, is that these are people who were brought here by their parents without the ability to object and have been living in the USA and are granted an immunity from being targeted to gain the same opportunity as a legal resident because their circumstance is out of their control. However, as an international student, you are making a conscious and free will decision to travel to the USA to seek a higher education. You are travelling outside of your area of citizenship to pay for, at the known cost, an education that you deem worthy. This is the same that a legal citizen of the USA does when deciding where they are to attend college, if they have the ability to do so. It is a decision that I had to make to value my education at the cost of what BU was asking versus other options. The rights that you feel you lack (the ability to get a job) are ones that are known based on visa status here and should be known before coming here. The illegal immigrant children here lack many of the rights you freely enjoy while in your home country. It is a choice for people to attend the institution to which they receive their education, the act is intended to keep illegal immigrants out from behind the 8 ball per-say. It would be an obvious disadvantage to tell a student that if they seek higher education, but are an illegal immigrant, they must go back to their country of citizenship, start life anew, and still try to obtain it.

          The wisest advice I have received in this context is to set yourself apart and seek to be better on your merit, not your status. If you succeed in that, the opportunities you seek cannot be denied from you because you then become the obvious choice. Do not seek to gain ground by pulling it out from under those around you.

          • Konrad on 12.13.2016 at 9:23 pm

            This is very nice, but what about the rule of law? It does not matter who broke the law first (parents, guardians etc) – two wrongs do not make it right. The USA and its citizens should not be taken hostage by illegals asking for special privileges, putting them above the law. It is time to take care of law-abiding American citizens first! Finally, how can we look into the eyes of immigrants and refugees who waited for years (often in refugee camps) and spent fortunes trying to enter the USA legally to become law-abiding citizens, if we allow special treatment for those who enter the country illegally?

        • 2 on 12.14.2016 at 12:06 pm

          Illegal immigrant children can not get financial aid (source:US gov https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/financial-aid-and-undocumented-students.pdf). And without a social security number they can not fill out a FAFSA and apply for state or college aid. How does that work out to better treatment? Is it the fact that, if they or their parents can not pay a $40000 year tuition for them to attend a private school like BU, they can get a low skill, low pay job?

          Do you have more information to support your claim that illegal immigrants are receiving better treatment than international students? Particularly those who are lucky enough to have the resources to attend BU? Do you know any international students attending BU from poor families in developing countries? I am genuinely curious, what little I know about the undergraduate demographics here suggests many of the students here are from middle/upper middle class families.

    • r u trigger xD on 12.13.2016 at 2:51 pm

      Because Democrats reward illegal activity as long as they can increase their voting rolls.

      • V on 12.13.2016 at 3:32 pm

        @r u trigger xD

        Please check your facts, the Republicans were pro-immigration way before democrats were.

        • 1 on 12.13.2016 at 6:11 pm

          As the nation’s attention turns back to the fractured debate over immigration, it might be helpful to remember that in 1986, Ronald Reagan signed a sweeping immigration reform bill into law. It was sold as a crackdown: There would be tighter security at the Mexican border, and employers would face strict penalties for hiring undocumented workers.

          But the bill also made any immigrant who’d entered the country before 1982 eligible for amnesty — a word not usually associated with the father of modern conservatism.

          As per the 1 paragraph of your link republicans are not 100 pro illegals.

          Secondly I am not against making illegals citizen as long as they pay tax, what is wrong is if they do not pay tax/pay less but receive federal aid as in DACA.(I think it makes them qualify). I find it doubtful if they will pay tax if they are afraid to go to authorities at all times. as you said in your post about police.

          AND it should NOT be ok to do something wrong just because someone else also did it before. So your argument does not stand here.

          And per IRS website illegals are not immigrants too if you really want to get into definitions: Illegal Alien
          Also known as an “Undocumented Alien,” is an alien who has entered the United States illegally and is deportable if apprehended, or an alien who entered the United States legally but who has fallen “out of status” and is deportable.


          As your said they deserve to live here. Do you know one of the top reasons illegal immigrants come to US is for their child to live here/become a citizen? I know because back to my country many people do such especially in my province/state. So DACA gives incentive for people to come to US illegally which is clearly wrong. Do you watch any documentary about how people come to US illegally? Hint, it involves crime and crime organizations. It feeds real dangerous criminals because immigrants need them to avoid border patrols.

          If you really care why not root for them to become citizen legally? Instead of just being illegals? DACA does not allow them to become citizens.

          A country should always put its people and what its people want first. Because the Government’s power come from citizens in a democratic society. What this administration is doing is clearly against the people’s will despite what you might think.
          Just look who won the presidency and you will find out.

          While I would agree a private organization should have freedom to do what it wants, it is a different story if it receive federal funds that come from tax payer. As most educational entity does. And real citizens can use their job and education, you are too privileged to care for real underclass American people. Open your eyes and look at the beggars and homeless people, the federal funds can go to them instead of illegals. They are people too!

    • V on 12.13.2016 at 3:12 pm

      Answering your question: if you are on a student visa, you are not an immigrant, because an immigrant is someone who comes to live permanently in a foreign country (I googled immigrant).
      As an international student you come into the US under the terms the US immigration grants you. Now, if you overstay your visa, there will be consequences such as not being able to return to the US if you leave. You might not be able to get credit, or legal documentation to take a job.
      Young people who are under the protection of DACA are those who did not choose to come to this country, it was their parents or guardians who brought them over, so they did not willingly brake the law. Giving them these kinds of benefits allows them to become productive members of society instead of engaging in other types of activities that might be detrimental to their safety.
      Put yourself in their shoes, some of them are afraid to go to the police if something happens to them, they are constantly afraid of being deported, of not being able to return to the US, build their lives like a citizen, or going back to a country that is foreign to them because they grew up here and not where they were born. Some of them don’t even speak or master their parent’s language.
      Think of what would happen to you if you would overstay your visa (which is the way many immigrants come into the coutnry stay). It’s not a pretty picture for you or for them.

      I hope I answered your question and hopefully you will be able to engage in constructive discussions about this important issue. BU is a great place where you can meet people from all walks of life, and allow you to build common ground with all of them.

      • r u trigger xD on 12.13.2016 at 6:15 pm

        “Think of what would happen to you if you would overstay your visa (which is the way many immigrants come into the coutnry [sic] stay)”

        I would expect them to comply with the law like millions of legal immigrants. Pretty sure you’d call the cops if I illegally immigrated to your property and then raided your fridge. Why are you so generous with other people’s money?

    • JRS on 12.17.2016 at 10:24 am

      First, as an international student, you (and I) are not immigrants. We are simply here for the purpose to study and get an education. Not to work and earn money.
      Second, any work you do at BU should be pertinent to your education. Either directly connected to your classes or allowing you to attend those same classes.
      Third, you probably have a tax treaty set in place, for which you would pay a very small amount of taxes (fed. + state). A privilege because you are here as a student, not a worker. Besides, you also do not pay Social Security and Medicare taxes like any other citizen.
      Fourth, illegal immigrants would still have to pay all those taxes you don’t pay and, since they are illegal, would get no benefits from that. No Social Security. No Medical insurance. Nothing.

  • V on 12.13.2016 at 3:36 pm

    Also, if any of you would like to learn more about what DACA means, please read this article, it’s short and to the point:

  • Matt on 12.13.2016 at 4:45 pm

    Thank you President Brown. Keep up the common sense and good work.

    –An employer who wants more educated people in the workforce

  • RichardB on 12.15.2016 at 3:26 am

    Slaves were brought here to depress wages of the citizens, they were forced to come. Now we have illegal immigration. Instead of forcing people to come here, we now give them entitlements to depress wages of our citizens. Remember Cesar Chavez and how he fought business to help the farm workers?

    At 18 a child brought here has 6 months to return home and come back legally on a visa etc. If they don’t, there status makes them just as illegal as there parents.

  • B on 12.15.2016 at 10:20 pm

    Thank you, BU.

  • Jimmy on 01.06.2017 at 9:42 pm

    Not enforcing the law, and obstructing immigration officials from enforcing the law is lack of leadership from Boston University. These are the type of policies that lead to people staying here illegally for many years because nobody enforces the law until a violent felony is committed. The fact that the University is admitting people of illegal status, and doesn’t even know how many illegals are attending the school is disturbing. What is the school going to do when illegals are 2 years into a 4 year program and then have to go home. That is a disservice to citizens and encourages breaking federal laws. Today I consider myself less proud to be from Boston University.

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