Open letter to Pitt Chancellor: Urging our universities to stand up for immigrant rights and DACA "dreamers"

February 9, 2018

Below is an open letter to Chancellor Patrick Gallagher sent to the University Times on Jan. 30 by the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Rights Working Group, in association with The Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance and the Chancellor's response on Feb. 9

The link to the letter and the Chancellor's response is can be accessed on University Times through this link; http://www.utimes.pitt.edu/?p=47606

Open Letter

Chancellor's Response

Action Needed to Defend Human Rights of Immigrants and DACA Program

Dear Chancellor Gallagher:

We call on the University of Pittsburgh to develop a responsible action plan and public statement supporting students, employees, and residents affected by President Trump’s efforts to end the DACA program and deport undocumented immigrants. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) provides two-year relief from removal proceedings and deportation for undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors (“dreamers”), and makes recipients eligible for study and employment authorization. There are some 700,000 DACA recipients nation-wide including nearly 6,000 in Pennsylvania.

Universities across the country took action against the government’s September 5, 2017 announcement that the DACA program will be dismantled within six months. Time is almost up. The University of Pittsburgh needs to act now and follow through with its September 5 tweet to DACA Students saying, “We’re here for you and join the rising tide of voices who are calling on Congress to make this right.” Stand with the City of Pittsburgh and Mayor Peduto who on January 8, 2018 declared,

“DACA recipients, and residents that are affected by the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) changes, are our friends, our classmates, our neighbors, our colleagues, and are our fellow Yinzers. In 2018 we aim to be more welcoming than ever before, and that goes beyond our local government and our Welcoming Pittsburgh initiatives… [it includes urging residents to contact their Representative or Senator in Congress and] tell them to pass a clean DREAM Act now.”

Stand with the Pittsburgh Public School system, which one year ago passed a resolution declaring itself a sanctuary campus that protects student data, restricts access by immigration agents, and offers a “safe and supportive school environment” for all.

Ending DACA means U.S. residents lose study and work authorizations and may face deportation, while undocumented residents may never be able to legalize their status. Since September 5, all new DACA applications have been prohibited, and since October all DACA renewals have been prohibited for those whose temporary status is expiring. Nationwide an estimated 122 DACA recipients per day have seen their permits expire since September. This will increase to about 1,000 per day after March 5, 2018 when the program officially ends.

Without public pressure and local support, all people affected by DACA are unlikely to see a timely solution. This January a Federal Judge ruling blocked government efforts to prevent DACA recipients from status renewal while legal challenges proceed through the courts, but President Trump launched an appeal. Days later, the President made racist remarks during a failed meeting on immigration with members of Congress. Congress then failed to address DACA, despite its centrality to debates that precipitated a three-day government shutdown. With Senate next expected to vote on immigration by mid-February, DACA recipients and the undocumented need practical help and vocal political support right now.

We believe in “Dreamers” and call on the University of Pittsburgh to take action in line with its strongly held values. Last year, when President Trump issued an executive order suspending immigration from seven Muslim countries, Chancellor Gallagher declared:

“…the University of Pittsburgh is built on a foundation of values that rejects discrimination and embraces diversity as essential to the tasks of education and discovery. Our University’s remarkable success story has been written by individuals who came from all over the world—by men and women who shared all types of religious beliefs. They came to Pittsburgh to learn, to teach, to discover, and to serve. Without question, we are a better university because of them. In the coming days, we will continue to work with the Administration and with Congress to share our profound concerns over these changes and to reaffirm our values and our position that education and discovery are enhanced through robust global engagement.”

In the same spirit, we call on the University administration to do the right thing and take action against another devastating immigration policy change affecting the lives of our students, employees and residents. The University of Pittsburgh should offer support in the following ways:

  • Publicly condemn the dismantling of DACA and failure to pass a clean Dream Act.
  • Pressure Congress to create a long-term solution in the form of legislation to protect “Dreamers,” and inform members of the University community about how they too can contact their Representative or Senator in Congress to demand action.
  • Announce timely legal and counseling support for students, employees and their families who are DACA recipients or undocumented immigrants.
  • Educate University of Pittsburgh students and employees on the situation more generally, and offer “Know Your Rights” information sessions.
  • Educate campus police, university faculty and staff regarding the circumstances and legality of withholding student information from immigration officials and prohibiting such officials from entering university buildings.
  • Promote a safe and supportive campus community for all students, regardless of immigration status, and investigate reports of harassment thoroughly and efficiently.
  • Work with student organizations to facilitate the creation of an anonymous support group for DACA recipients and undocumented members of the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Create a scholarship fund to provide financial aid to DACA students who lose their work permits.

 

Submitted by:

The University of Pittsburgh’s Human Rights Working Groupin association with The Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance

University of Pittsburgh Human Rights Working Group members:
Lisa Alfredson, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
Peter Odell Campbell, Program in Composition, Literacy, Pedagogy, & Rhetoric, Department of English Sabina Dietrick, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
Jamie C. Ducar, Office of Community and Governmental Relations
Waverly Duck, Department of Sociology
Erika Gold Kestenberg, Center for Urban Education, School of Education
Michael Goodhart, Global Studies Center
Sarah Goodkind, School of Social Work
Jordan Hayes, Department of English
Holly Hickling, University Honors College
Cory Holding, Department of English
Shenay Jeffrey, Office of PittServes; Advisory board member, New Voices for Reproductive Justice
Kari Kokka, Department of Instruction and Learning
Dan Kubis, Humanities Center
Jules Lobel, School of Law
Noble Maseru, Center for Health Equity
Joshua Lew McDermott, PhD student, Department of Sociology
Paul Nelson, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
Mary Ohmer, Community Organization and Social Action Program, School of Social Work, Center for Race and Social Problems
Roger Rouse, Global Studies Center
Jeffrey Shook, School of Social Work
Sam Shepherd, Arts & Sciences Graduate Fellow, Department of History
Jackie Smith, Department of Sociology

 

Notes

1 Chronicle of Higher Education, “What Major Universities Had to Say About Trump’s Move to Roll Back DACA,” September 5, 2017. At https://www.chronicle.com/article/What-Major-Universities-Had-to/241095. For a repository of Universities’ official letters and action plans on DACA, see https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B6MvjO5suXEanFWY3I0NUo5bFk

2 The tweet was issued by Chancellor Gallagher. On this and other Pittsburgh region responses, see Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Leaders and Dreamers in Pittsburgh Region React to Trump administration’s decision to end DACA,” September 5, 2017, at: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2017/09/05/PIttsburgh-Dreamers-re...

3 Press Release: Mayor William Peduto Urges Action on DREAM Act. January 8, 2018. http://pittsburghpa.gov/pressreleases/press-releases.html?id=1352

4 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Pittsburgh Public Schools Declares Itself ‘Sanctuary’ Campus,” January 25, 2017. http://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2017/01/25/Pittsburgh-Public-...

5 Huffington Post, “More than 180 Protesters Arrested At Rally For Dreamers As Congress Drags Its Feet”, December 6, 2017, at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dreamers-protest-arrests-luis-gutie...)

6 NPR, “Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump’s Decision to End DACA,” January 9, 2018 at https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/10/576963434/federal-jud...

7 New York Times, “Hopes Dim for DACA Deal As Lawmakers Battle Over Trump’s Immigration Remarks”, January 14, 2018 at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/14/us/politics/david-perdue-trump-shitho...

8 Washington Post, “Latino Activists and Lawmakers Critical of Reopening Government Without ‘Dreamer’ Solution,” January 22, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/01/22/latino-activis...

 

RE: Action Needed to Defend Human Rights of Immigrants and DACA Program

Dear Colleagues:

I wish to thank the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Rights Working Group for highlighting the important issues facing students under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Originally designed to address a gap in U.S. immigration enforcement policy, this program served undocumented minors — called “Dreamers” after a proposed bill called the DREAM Act — who entered this country through the actions of their parents. DACA afforded these individuals temporary relief from deportation and eligibility for work permits while they awaited a more a permanent legislative fix from Congress.

In September 2017, the administration rescinded the DACA program and the president urged Congress to take permanent action. Such action has not transpired, and there is mounting uncertainty and alarm about the fate of individuals who are eligible under the program.

This issue is vital to Pitt and other universities because many of these Dreamers are members of our campus communities. Of the nearly 700,000 DACA recipients, more than 350,000 are students. Inclusion of these young people has strengthened the nation’s economy, contributed to stronger and safer communities, and supported higher levels of academic attainment and upward social mobility, according to research.

DACA students share the same goals as their fellow classmates: To follow their dreams and create opportunity through learning. At Pitt, we value DACA students and believe that they have every right to be a part of our community.

Your letter suggests that we have been on the sidelines of this vital issue. Let me reassure you that this is simply not the case. Immediately following the issuance of the September 2017 Executive Order to rescind the DACA program, Pitt joined other universities around the country in voicing our disapproval of the order. Given the widespread nature of the response, we have had an opportunity to express our public opposition on a number of occasions — including in joint letters and statements with organizations such as the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. On behalf of the University of Pittsburgh, I have signed many of these statements and, as appropriate, will continue to do so.

In addition to joint public statements, our federal affairs team has been busy advocating for Congressional action that adequately addresses the status of DACA students. This situation continues to be contentious and uncertain, changing even over the past 36 hours. In light of such volatility, we expanded our efforts earlier this week. I sent direct letters to the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, urging them seek a permanent and immediate solution for the DACA program. We also opened up our Pitt portal (with.pitt.edu) so that all members of our University community can easily reach out to members of Congress and send similar letters of support.

Beyond seeking decisive Congressional action on DACA, we have supported affected Pitt students in several, specific ways:

  • Our University Center for International Studies provides direct, personalized support to DACA students and refers them to our Immigration Law Clinic when applicable.
  • Our Immigration Law Clinic receives referrals from local immigrant community organizations to represent immigrant youth and their families. These efforts include Pitt Law faculty members and students meeting individually with young immigrants and their families to provide free legal counseling.
  • This fall, our Office of Community and Governmental Relations assisted the Student Government Board in coordinating a student-led letter writing campaign in support of DACA recipients.
  • We continue to protect the personal information of all students — including DACA students — to the fullest extent permitted by law.
  • Our Office of Admissions and Financial Aid can provide grant support to students who face extenuating financial challenges in filing the application renewal fee for DACA status according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services procedures. To learn more, students can contact our Associate Director of Financial Aid for Client Services and Special Programs Janet R. McLaughlin at janetmcl@pitt.edu or (412) 624-9146.
  • Our Office of the Dean of Students is available for support and consultation navigating various specific circumstances a student may face. Students can contact deanofstudents@pitt.edu or (412) 648-1006 to be connected with a resource.
  • Our University Counseling Center is a confidential place to talk with a trained health care professional about any concern. Students can dial (412) 648-7930 to speak with a staff member.
  • Our Student Government Board offers students the opportunity for a free 20-minute legal consultation. Undocumented or DACA students who need immigration legal advice will be referred to local immigration attorneys. Appointments can be scheduled on Thursdays between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. To schedule an appointment, students can dial (412) 648-7970.

I hope you can appreciate that we have been — and will continue to be — active advocates for our DACA students. We also consistently review and, if necessary, modify our efforts in light of changing circumstances.

To the members of the Working Group: I want to thank you again for your thoughtful letter and input. This situation directly connects to our shared core values, and it is important that we speak and act accordingly.

 

Sincerely,

Patrick Gallagher

 

The link to the letter and the Chancellor's response is can be accessed on University Times through this link; http://www.utimes.pitt.edu/?p=47606 

REFERENCES

  1. University of Pittsburgh Human Rights Working Group . (2018 Jan 30). "Open letter to University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher RE: Action needed to defend human rights of immigrants and DACA program ". University Times .

About Author(s)

Jackie Smith
Dr. Smith studies the connections between globalization and political mobilization. She is interested in how social movements are shaped by global economic structures and institutions as well as how they affect global norms and political processes. Her current research focuses on the World Social Forum process and the larger global justice movement, and in particular, in how movements build coalitions across a variety of differences such as class, race, gender and national identity.