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ICE! How Foreign Students And Universities Can Work Together And Protect Student’s Rights

26. 06. 2017
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In spite of the fact that many of them are constitutionally dubious, the federal government has taken several draconian measures against both documented and undocumented aliens living in the United States. Some of these have been summarily overruled by the Federal courts, and others are being challenged. However, expanded enforcement has still resulted in multiple individuals being targeted, detained, even deported.

Unlike in the previous administration, this has included many who are here legally, or who have protected status under programs like DACA. Several of those targeted have been college and university students. Fortunately, there are ways in which foreign students along with their schools can take action to protect students from being victimized by these policies.

Creating Sanctuary Campuses

Many small and large cities across the United States have declared themselves sanctuary cities. This means that they will not cooperate with expanded anti-immigrant enforcement. Their law enforcement agents will not require immigrants to show their papers, for example. They will also  not provide information to ICE or other federal agents.

Now, several colleges and universities have begun similar initiatives. They have pledged to offer sanctuary on their campus to all foreign born students regardless of their status of documented or undocumented. These schools which include, New York University and the University of Pennsylvania have declared themselves sanctuary schools In addition to this, other schools are also offering protection even though they have not officially adopted the ‘sanctuary’ label. These include the entire California university and community college systems. Here are some measures these schools are taking:

  • Creating Practical And Emotional Support Systems For Students And Their Families
  • Refusing to Allow ICE Agents on Campus Without Going Through a Valid Legal Process
  • Refusing to Share Student Data With Immigration Agents
  • Adopting Policies of Inclusivity And Non Discrimination
  • Instructing Campus Police Not to Assist ICE, DHS or Other Organizations in The Arrest, Detention, Investigation, or Deportation of Students When The Only Matter Under Investigation is Immigrant Status

Unfortunately, just like states are being threatened with removal of funding, these colleges and universities could be punished for their decision to provide protection to their students.

Getting to Know Your School

Foreign students are strongly advised to determine their school’s position on this matter. It is important to know what protections are in place, if any. If the school has not taken a position, they should be strongly encouraged by the student body and faculty to do so. Students  have the right to know where they stand should they be targeted by anti-immigrant policies.

In the event that students find that their school will not take action to protect them while on campus or at school events, they may need to consider taking steps to protect themselves. This could range from transferring to another school, finding resources elsewhere in the community, or creating student led initiatives.

Students Rights And Protections

There are several situations where foreign students may be confronted about their immigration status. It is important to understand some basic steps to take in these situations. Here are a few common situations and important tips to follow.

Being Stopped or Detained by Law Enforcement Immigration or ICE

There are several reasons why you may be stopped or detained or visited at your home. Agents may  have received a report. A LEO may have detained you for another reason and then decide to question your immigrant status. If you are approached or detained here are some important tips.

  • Ask For an Attorney But Understand You May Have to Fund  Your Own Legal Services
  • You Have The Right to See a Warrant Before Officers Enter Your Home
  • Ask if You Are Free to go And Leave Immediately if The Answer is Yes
  • In Nearly Every Situation Asserting Your Right to Remain Silent is Best
  • Don’t Provide False Documents or Lie About Your Status - Say Nothing

Airports Borders And Other Points of Entry

It is important to remember that government agents have expanded authority at these locations. While they are not permitted to do so elsewhere, they have the right to ask you about your travels. They may even search your luggage. If this happens, stay calm. Know your rights and contact an attorney if you feel they have been violated. Here is a great FAQ about travel and immigration policies.

Being Confronted by Anti Immigrant Posters Flyers or Demonstrators

In addition to there being many protections in place for students who are threatened with violence, discriminated against, or threatened with violence, many schools have taken additional measures to ensure that campuses and on and off campus residences are safe places for all students.

If you witness anything that you perceive as a civil rights violation or violation of school property, collect evidence as best you can while still remaining safe. Then, report the evidence to school administration. If you feel as if your rights have been directly violated, contact an organization such as the ACLU. In some cases, your university’s school of law will direct you to resources that can help.


The best colleges and universities have always benefitted from opening their programs to students who were born in foreign countries regardless of their status. The only way to ensure that this continues is for students and schools to work together. If you aren’t a foreign student, you can still play a role. Educate yourself on this important issue, encourage your school to create pro immigrant policies, and act as an advocate for those who may not be able to do so for themselves.