AG Healey issues advisory to colleges and universities on rights of immigrant students on campus

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. (Image courtesy of the Attorney General’s office.)

Following inquiries about the impact of federal immigration policies and executive orders on immigrant students at institutions of higher education, Attorney General Maura Healey today issued an advisory to public and private colleges and universities in Massachusetts on issues that may affect immigrant students. 

The advisory addresses questions and concerns, including ways to support immigrant students on campus, a potential increase of on-campus detention and deportation enforcement activities by federal immigration officers, and the ability of schools to protect information about students’ immigration status.

“Each year, thousands of dreamers and immigrant students graduate from high school and want to further their education,” AG Healey said. “Massachusetts schools should be safe places for learning. With this advisory, we hope to clarify the rights of students and public and private college and university officials so that all students can feel welcome on campus.”

“Attorney General Healey has been a forceful advocate and a great resource for Massachusetts students and colleges,” said Richard Doherty, President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts. “Her early leadership in opposition to the initial travel ban, her work to protect DACA enrollees, her actions against predatory for-profit colleges and today’s guidance are all greatly appreciated by the higher education community.”

This follows an advisory the AG’s Office sent earlier this year reminding local public school districts of their obligation under state and federal law to provide all students with equal access to primary and secondary education, as well as guidance issued to health care providers and local public school districts on immigration enforcement and requests for information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Today’s advisory specifically addresses policies affecting students who are grantees of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), undocumented, and those who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Under its current policies, ICE does not generally conduct enforcement activities such as surveillance, interviews, searches and arrests, at certain “sensitive locations,” which includes institutions of higher education (IHEs).

While the AG’s Office has no current information indicating that ICE will formally change its “sensitive location” policies, today’s advisory provides information to colleges and universities about developing protocols to use in the event that immigration officers request access to campus or seek to interview or take custody of a student, as well as proactive policies schools can adopt to support immigrant students.

The advisory also provides information about requests for information from ICE, and what protections are granted by federal privacy law and proactive steps that IHEs can take to protect students’ immigration information.

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