Hundreds of NYU students and faculty members walked out of class this week in solidarity with undocumented students. The purpose of the walkout was to show support for a sanctuary campus, which promises that it will not report nor release official documents pertaining to the status of undocumented students. Even NYU President Andrew Hamilton put out a statement affirming the university’s commitment to protecting all students, regardless of citizenship status.
The widespread support for undocumented and marginalized students at NYU is a great sight to see, especially considering the incoming presidential administration’s pledged assault on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act. Undocumented students have oftentimes grown up in the American education system and offering qualified students fewer resources to attend college solely based on immigration status is unfair. Furthermore, universities benefit from the presence of ambitious, intelligent students with unique perspectives on issues that affect everyone on campus. Student bodies are enriched by a wealth of viewpoints, and the experiences of undocumented students contribute significantly to dialogue. The only thing that makes students without papers different from everyone else is that they are caught — often not by choice — in a complex web of bureaucratic trappings.
As a declared sanctuary campus, NYU, like many other universities, considers all students for scholarships regardless of their documentation status. While this is a worthwhile endeavor, NYU and other universities can — and should — aim to accomplish so much more. It is plain to see that the next four years will hold countless difficulties for undocumented students nationwide. University administrators should take steps to ensure that these policies will not adversely affect their students fiscally and personally. NYU could draw inspiration from programs currently in place at other schools which provide legal support and advice for undocumented students free of charge. Instating programs like these would allow students to receive the support they need in the face of potential federal persecution.
What has become glaringly apparent is that keeping qualified undocumented students and graduates in the United States is in our best interest. Immigrants continue to prove themselves as economic assets; keeping highly-skilled graduates who have been educated at American universities would only be logical. Losing these students to deportation would be fiscally taxing. There is also a moral obligation to guarantee that undocumented students are not cheated out of the education owed to them by the university. America is and always has been a nation of immigrants, and to deny immigrants the same opportunities as citizens is to deny them their place in society. The values and ideals Hamilton has promised to uphold are those of acceptance, safety and equality. To preserve these principles and protect the most vulnerable among us, NYU’s administration must assume an active role.
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