Amidst campus activism, Cornell reaffirmed its commitment to providing financial aid for its undocumented students in a recent statement. (Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor)

April 11, 2017

Cornell Highlights Contingency Plans for Potential DACA Repeal

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Three Cornell administrators released a joint statement Monday, reaffirming support for undocumented students and unveiling contingency plans for potential changes in federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life and Laura Spitz, vice provost for international affairs, reassured currently enrolled undergraduate DACA students that they will “continue to be eligible for need-based financial aid, meeting full demonstrated need.”

Addressing the growing fear among undocumented students on financial aid, the administrators revealed policies that would be put in place for graduate students if DACA were discontinued.

“[DACA] students will continue to receive funding for the complete length of time offered in their admissions letters,” the statement read. “If DACA were to be discontinued and graduate students were to lose federal work authorization, fellowship funding will be provided to these students.”

The administrators also reassured undocumented undergraduate students that, should the DACA program change, Cornell will implement policies to ensure they qualify for financial aid.

“If federal policy with respect to the DACA program changes, Cornell will examine how we can develop, administer and use a DACA-like set of criteria to enable undocumented students who meet the criteria, particularly having resided in the U.S. for a significant amount of time, to qualify for domestic financial aid and admissions policies,” the statement read.

The statement also addressed concern that the Cornell University Policy Department would question students about their immigration status. The administrators assured students this would not be an issue.

“Cornell will continue to vigilantly protect the privacy of student information and records from any unauthorized or lawful intrusion,” the statement read. “CUPD will not seek immigration status information of any individual in the course of its law enforcement activities unless necessary to investigate criminal activity by that individual or required by law.”

While the administrators conceded that arrested individuals are required to reveal their citizenship to police, they affirmed Cornell’s commitment to not “function as an agent of the federal government regarding enforcement of federal immigration laws.”

“CUPD will not honor a civil immigration detainer request from a federal agent unless accompanied by a judicial warrant except in the narrow circumstances delineated in Tompkins County Resolution 2017-21,” the statement read.

Immigration detainers allow local law enforcement agencies to detain individuals for an additional 48 hours so U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents can decide whether or not to take the individual into federal custody for deportation.

Cornell also highlighted services available to undocumented students, including covering the cost of the DACA application fee through a university loan.
For students who fear traveling abroad to return home due to changing federal immigration policy, Cornell will make on-campus housing options available this summer.

Cornell Law School will also be providing assistance to undocumented students.

“Cornell Law School has set up a new program to provide free legal advice to undocumented Cornell students who may wish to consult with a lawyer about the implications of national immigration policy shifts for their immigration status,” the statement read.

Law school faculty will also offer free legal assistance and represent DACA students.