Michael Wenye Li / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

A panel, representing deans and Cornell law professors, clarified University policy and responded to audience questions regarding concerns for DACA students.

March 19, 2017

Panel Addresses Questions, Concerns From DACA Students

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Aimed to address the community’s concerns for students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, particularly following President Donald Trump’s election, the University held a panel discussion to elaborate its policy.

The four panelists — Carlos Gonzales, executive director of the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, Prof. Estelle McKee, law, and Vijay Pendakur, dean of students — fielded questions and explained what they know about the current situation and ways the University can assist.

Most of the audience’s questions centered around financial aid and monetary initiatives to help DACA students.

Knuth said all DACA students have been eligible for the same need-based financial aid as U.S. citizens at Cornell since November 2016.

“Last year a working group I chaired, that was appointed by the provost, whose undergraduate student, faculty and staff members — called the Admissions and Financial Aid Working Group — developed a recommendation … to move students who have DACA status into our domestic admissions pool for undergraduate and our domestic financial aid pool,” Knuth said.

The University is also currently appealing to donors in an effort to expand their financial resources for DACA students, according to Knuth.

Knuth also said efforts will be made to help fund graduate students with DACA status but financial aid may not necessarily be provided. However, she said that the University still offers loan options for students in need of summer housing.

Panelists also answered questions about the Cornell University Police Department’s policies and student resources.

McKee explained the services that Cornell Law School has offered so far include providing legal counseling for anyone in the Cornell community in need. Should the occasion arise, McKee said, the Law School may extend these services to meet mounting demand.

“Right now the immigration law faculty is able to handle the counseling needs, but should they become too much, then we, the Law School, [are] prepared to start a clinical fellow to work on these,” McKee said.

She also addressed the resolutions the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County passed, confirming that the city and county will not honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detainer requests nor will they carry out administrative warrants or warrants of removal unless judicially issued.

According to McKee, the Law School is also working with the local police departments to train staff about their rights and when they may decline to share information with authorities.

Throughout the meeting, there was some confusion about CUPD’s stance on this issue, but it was clarified when an audience member read from the March 10 Blue Light Safety message, which states that Cornell police officers will not honor ICE.

According to the message, CUPD will also not seek immigration status, unless necessary to investigate criminal activity or required by law.

In response to the growing demand for greater student resources, Pendakur said that he has received a request from DACA students and from other minority groups on campus for designated space and resources.

Attributing the desire for a safe space to the “volatile political climate,” he said he empathizes with the students who are asking for these spaces and is currently working on how to divide the diversity resources he controls across the groups.

“We’re in a moment of time that our vulnerable student communities are very reasonably saying ‘Hey, I need something that grounds me on this campus,’” Pendakur said. “We’re in an extremely volatile political climate and feelings of deep fragility are understandable in that climate.”