Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
In my message of November 15, I urged the Harvard community to affirm fundamental values of inclusion and belonging, and to model the respect for people and ideas that rest at the heart of any academic community. Our responsibility to each other requires us to demonstrate that we are enriched by difference and respectful disagreement, and to support any individuals in our community who feel vulnerable or unsafe.
In the days since I sent this message, there has been growing concern about the effect more aggressive enforcement of federal immigration laws could have on many students, scholars and staff at Harvard, especially on students who are undocumented.
I write today to reaffirm our clear and unequivocal support for these individuals, who are part of the fabric of University life, and to share information about related University resources and evolving plans intended to ensure we continue to foster an environment where all at Harvard can thrive.
Some have asked about the role of the institution in enforcing federal immigration laws. Last week, Chief Francis D. Riley of the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) issued a message restating the HUPD’s practice of not inquiring about the immigration status of faculty, students, or staff and noting that the department is not involved in enforcing federal immigration laws. This is consistent with the policies of the cities of Boston and Cambridge. Furthermore, the University does not and will not voluntarily share information on the immigration status of undocumented members of our community. And, as a matter of longstanding policy, law enforcement officials seeking to enter campus are expected to check in first with the HUPD and, in cases involving the enforcement of the immigration laws, will be required to obtain a warrant
In addition to these commitments we will also be supplementing existing legal resources available to the community. The University will provide additional support to expand the work of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, based at Harvard Law School. In addition to being a confidential place where members of the community can turn for legal advice, the clinic is planning a series of information sessions in the weeks to come. Along with expertise on our own faculty, the University will also invite immigration experts to campus who can inform members of our community about the potential implications of various policy options that the new administration might pursue. As circumstances unfold and as members of our community articulate new or different concerns, we will respond with appropriate actions and resources.
We will also continue Harvard’s advocacy for government policies that advance the interests of undocumented students. I recently joined over 200 college and university presidents in voicing support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before turning 16 to enroll in college. These students have made – and continue to make – outstanding contributions to our community. I will make the case for them, and the benefits they receive as a result of DACA, with government leaders in Washington, DC in the weeks and months ahead. I will continue my active support for the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would provide a permanent solution for undocumented students. Harvard was an early and strong advocate of both the DREAM Act and DACA and we will continue to make every effort to advance their goals. We will also sustain our existing financial aid policies without reference to immigration status.
Finally, while Harvard College and the graduate and professional schools have made a variety of important resources available, we will also create a single, University-wide point of connection for students and administrators seeking information or guidance around undocumented students and other immigration concerns. This work will be led by my chief of staff, Lars Madsen, and I have asked him to serve as a point person to coordinate these efforts across the University.
While the immigration policies of the new administration remain undefined, we recognize and share the deep anxiety that campaign rhetoric and proposals have created for many members of the Harvard community. Their cause – the opportunity they have earned through hard work to pursue their research, teaching and education at Harvard – is our cause. We stand with them as one community in support of each other, in support of the values we share, and in support of a commitment to inclusion and belonging that must be at the core of our institution.