January 29, 2017
On Friday afternoon, the President issued an Executive Order that suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and for 90 days blocked entry for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, including holders of student visas. This action, which could affect approximately 120 students at The City University of New York, as well as some faculty and staff, has caused hardship and confusion for many across the country and beyond. While I understand it is the responsibility of the administration to keep our country safe, I believe that this Executive Order is inconsistent with the values of openness and inclusiveness that have made CUNY—and our country—great. Those of us who disagree with this policy should urge our elected leaders to change it. In the meantime, we will hold to the values that have been a source of strength at CUNY for 170 years, and we will offer legal assistance to affected members of the CUNY community who need it, through CUNY Citizenship Now, CUNY CLEAR, and other means.
There are few institutions that have done more to help this country benefit from immigration than The City University of New York. Today, almost 40 percent of our undergraduates were born in another country, and we are all the beneficiaries of their talent and ambition. Our commitment to protecting and supporting our students, regardless of their immigration status, is unwavering and includes the following:
CUNY will take no action to assist in the enforcement of the immigration laws except as required by law;
CUNY will protect student record information in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act;
CUNY will not turn over student information to immigration enforcement authorities except pursuant to court order;
CUNY will not request or gather information about students’ citizenship or immigration status in the course of providing educational or other services or in connection with public safety activities except as required in connection with tuition or financial aid eligibility; and
CUNY will not permit immigration enforcement officials to enter its campuses except to the extent required by a warrant or court order.
One of the greatest benefits of being Chancellor of CUNY is the opportunity to meet outstanding students and hear not just of their successes, but also their struggles to overcome obstacles. One that comes to mind now is the address that Orubba Almansouri, of City College, delivered as Salutatorian at commencement last year. Orubba described how, as a Yemeni immigrant, many in her family and village did not believe in higher education for women. She explained how she discussed with her father, over several years, her dreams, her passion for knowledge and her desire to study at CUNY. She won the argument. But certainly we at CUNY also won, and so did our city and country. That is why we continue to fight for our values and for the free movement of scholars who gain great opportunities and contribute so much to the world.
James B. Milliken