The Recent Executive Order on Immigration

Date: Sunday, January 29, 2017
To: THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY
From: NYU President Andrew Hamilton  

Dear Members of the NYU Community,

As an immigrant to this country, a former green card holder, and now a citizen of the United States, I have a heavy heart this morning as I watch the events unfolding at our nation's borders and at airports abroad. The dreams and aspirations of many, including some of our own students', are at risk of being disrupted before they have begun. On the heels of this sudden federal government order banning entry into the U.S. from certain countries, which has frightened many in our University community and left them feeling uncertain, I want you to know about the steps we are taking to help our students and scholars from those nations.

As far as NYU is concerned, these are members in good standing of our academic community, no different from anyone else. NYU believes in the free movement of ideas and, though it is governments that control borders, we also believe in the accompanying free movement of people in pursuit of their academic work. We want the group of NYU colleagues and peers affected by this order to know that the University supports them.  Their ability to carry on with their studies and their research, their ability to be present on our campus and participate fully and confidently in University life, and their welfare are foremost among NYU's concerns.

On Saturday, we wrote directly to students, faculty, and researchers from the seven nations cited in the order -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen -- and highlighted the enormous risk they would be taking should they choose to travel outside the United States while the order remains in effect. We also let them know that we have arranged for special information sessions to be conducted for them this coming week with an immigration expert from the faculty of the Law School and staff from our Office of Global Services so that they have a clearer picture of the order's implications and the unfolding legal challenges.  Following these conversations, we will determine what additional steps we should take. NYU representatives are also supporting students who are facing more immediate challenges from the order.

NYU's position is not unique; the order will have an impact on many institutions of higher learning. There is strength in numbers, and we expect to work with peer institutions and with the groups that represent us nationally (see here a statement from the Association of American Universities, which represents NYU and other major research universities) to safeguard the rights, well-being, education, and scholarship of those affected by these or other changes to immigration policy.

It is hard not to see this latest development in the context of undocumented members of our community, whose status has also been the subject of much debate in Washington. I wrote to you in November about the steps we were taking to support them, but let me reiterate the key ones:

  • We will not permit federal officials on campus to gather information about immigrants in our community absent a subpoena or similar legal order;
  • Our Public Safety Officers do not and will not ask about the immigration status of members of the NYU community, nor will they voluntarily share such information with law enforcement;
  • We will vigorously uphold the privacy protections granted our students by federal law; and
  • The University's scholarship assistance to non-U.S.-citizens, which is independent of federal financial aid programs, will carry on regardless of changes to immigration policies.

As a scientist who studied and worked in four countries before becoming a citizen of the U.S., I know how important it is to be able to move across borders in peaceful pursuit of one's scholarship. I know, too, more than most given my background and my field, how much goodwill the U.S. earns for itself through the openness of its education system and how widely those who study here can spread American values. And I know, as well, that these developments are not just a matter of disrupted educational plans or lost opportunities or even damage to the academic enterprise; beyond all that, this order harms one of the most admired and cherished of American principles -- religious non-discrimination itself.

In the days to come, let us remain true to our community's values and adamant about supporting and making feel valued and welcome those whose status has been thrown into question by changes in government policy.  Let us try to ease their anxieties and their burdens by making sure they know they are among friends who are committed to helping them.

Sincerely,
Andrew Hamilton