Eastern University and Immigration Policy

     On Jan. 31 Dr. Duffett released a statement on President Trump’s executive order regarding immigration, informally known as the “travel ban,” which prevents residents from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States. In his statement, Dr. Duffett writes of the nation’s First Amendment separation of church and state and prohibition against the state establishing a religion or preventing the free exercise of religion.

     “I am deeply concerned,” says Duffett, “that the recent executive order on immigration traduces this line.” Duffett outlines steps that Eastern University is taking to address the situation as it affects the Eastern student body. Such steps include having the Student Development office actively assess the impact of the recent immigration executive order on our students, as well as  advocating on Capitol Hill for better policies. Additionally, Duffett shares that “Eastern University signed, along with more than 600 colleges and universities, the Pomona Statement in support of protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, and we recruited other institutions to do the same.” DACA is provisional status available to undocumented residents who were under age 16 when they entered the U.S. with their parents. DACA removes threat of deportation, grants work authorization and allows immigrants to apply for  “advanced parole” status to travel outside of the U.S. and then return. DACA is not based in legislation, but rather, it is a part of an executive order from President Obama, which means that President Trump could overturn it at any time. Currently, there is drafted and proposed legislation entitled the Bridge Act which would essentially protect the status currently afforded by DACA, but for the moment, there is unease about the future of this status.

     On Feb. 14, Eastern University hosted a policy presentation by Philadelphia immigration lawyer Mary Clark from Esperanza Immigration Legal Services. Clark brought attention to the second of President Trump’s immigration executive orders, the “interior enforcement” order that can directly affect Eastern University. Clark outlined several relevant features for universities surrounding these immigration orders. First, under the FERPA Act, all student information is protected, and law enforcement cannot access this information without a judicial order unless the student has a student visa or the student is suspected of terrorism. Second, currently in place is the Sensitive Locations Memo, which President Obama implemented via the Department of Homeland Security; this memo affords certain places like schools and universities, hospitals and religious institutions protection from immigration law enforcement raids. As with DACA, however, since this was not implemented legislatively, it could be revoked by the Trump administration at any time. In the event that it is revoked, universities like Eastern would still be afforded some level of protection via basic constitutional rights regarding private spaces, including dorm rooms, which law enforcement cannot enter without a warrant. Nevertheless, there is a lot of grey area related to what constitutes private or public. For example, given that Eastern’s campus is open to the public, the library could arguably be considered either a private or public space. Additionally, depending on how “harboring” gets defined as a criminal, universities which knowingly do not report undocumented students to law enforcement could lose federal funding or even face legal prosecution.

     Eastern University is closely monitoring these current events and actively seeking the good of its student body. In his concluding remarks, Duffett says: “In these turbulent times I encourage you to engage in prayer for our country and also for those around the world who are impacted by decisions made by our political leaders. I also encourage you to engage with your elected officials, as we continue to do.”

     If you have questions regarding the ban, please contact Augusta Allen, Director of International Student and Scholar Services, at aallen6@eastern.edu or Bettie Ann Brigham, Vice Provost for Student Development, at bbrigham@eastern.edu.

     Sources: Mary Clark, eastern.edu

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