Message to the campus community on immigration and DACA

November 21, 2016

Dear USD Campus Community:

In recent weeks, we have witnessed an outpouring of support on our campus for our international students as well as those students who are immigrants, including those who are eligible for deferred action under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process. Like other universities around the country, USD is not immune to incidents of intolerance on campus. However, I have been encouraged by the spirit on our campus which has been to unite and stand in solidarity supporting our students, faculty and staff, who are immigrants and who enrich our campus each day. This support by our university community is a wonderful example of how we are promoting a culture of care on our campus.

USD has had a long commitment of supporting students and employees, regardless of their citizenship status or nation of origin, who seek a better life by either pursuing a college degree or serving our campus community. The principles of access and inclusion have deep roots on this campus, and over the years there have been many actions we have taken in support of these beliefs. I wish to reassure our campus that we remain committed to and reaffirm all of those principles which protect immigrants on our campus and promote social justice and the dignity of every member of our university community. The University of San Diego is unequivocal in its support of our international and immigrant student and employee population.

Some questions have arisen about a few universities across the country which have declared their campus as a "sanctuary campus” and whether this is an option for USD. Most of these institutions reside within municipalities that are classified as sanctuary cities. The City of San Diego is not a sanctuary city. We will carefully monitor the national dialogue on this important topic and collaborate with our national higher education associations to determine our best options. Once we determine what options we have at our disposal, we will act with vigilance to take the appropriate action and identify specific steps forward to protect our students and employees. To help us review our options, I will be forming a presidential task force of faculty and staff with expertise in these areas. Provost Allen and I will consult with the Deans and the Executive Council as to who should serve on this advisory council.

It is important to understand that USD already has several policies in place to protect and defend the rights of all our students that in many ways mirror the call to be a sanctuary campus. We reaffirm all those policies, including our long standing practice that a student’s immigration status is considered as part of a student’s educational record. As such, these records will continue to receive the protections afforded by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and would be disclosed to any third party, including law enforcement authorities, only in response to a subpoena, warrant, or other court order, or otherwise where disclosure is mandated by law.

International and immigrant students at USD, including those who have benefited from DACA, have been outstanding student scholars and student leaders, serving our campus, our local community, and communities around the world.  These students will continue to have the relentless support of our university leadership. Likewise, we will not waver in our support of our colleagues who are from other countries or immigrants to the United States.

As president of USD, I have publicly supported issues that I believe are in alignment with our mission and vision for the future. For example, last week I joined other university presidents from across the country in signing a joint statement directed to our country’s leaders that DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded.

In a world filled with uncertainty, we must remain hopeful and united. We must reaffirm our commitment as a Catholic university to treat every member of our community with dignity and respect, continue to promote social justice and attend to the needs of all, especially the marginalized. In this spirit, I encourage you to model behaviors that advance our values and exercise your rights as citizens. Write to your local, state, and federal elected officials expressing your support for legislation in alignment with these values.
 
There has never been a better time for USD to take a leadership role in our society. This is a moment when our university community can demonstrate that changemaking is not just an ideal, but an opportunity to lead and be positive agents for change in the world.

Sincerely,

James T Harris III, D.Ed.
President