NEWS RELEASE (available online at https://goo.gl/Hofi8K)
(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University President Linda Schott continues to take a leadership role in support of immigrant and international students, serving as an early member of the new Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.
The alliance – which was formed earlier this month and has quickly grown to more than 150 members – is a collective effort by college and university leaders across the U.S. to address immigration issues that may affect their students. Members will work together to support federal and state policies that create welcoming environments for immigrant, undocumented and international students.
Higher education presidents and chancellors formed the organization as members of Congress began their lead-up to a likely vote on extending some form of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The White House decreed in September that Congress must act within six months to prevent the program’s cancellation and the deportation of its participants, and several members of Congress have suggested that a proposal is likely in January.
President Schott has been vocal in her support for the program, which offers immigrants who grew up in the U.S. without legal documentation an opportunity to remain as they pursue school or work goals.
“We do not have a large number of DACA students at SOU, but our institution recognizes that it is critically important for all people to have the opportunity to learn and grow,” President Schott said. “We value the rights of all students – regardless of their immigration status, nationality, gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, religious affiliation or political persuasion – and are unconditionally committed to preserving them.”
While DACA is the most urgent priority of the new alliance of higher education leaders, the organization will also seek to modernize other portions of U.S. immigration law that was originally drafted in the 1950s. Alliance members will urge lawmakers to recognize today’s global interconnectedness and the importance of maintaining U.S. universities and colleges as premier academic destinations for students worldwide
In addition to her membership in the new Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, President Schott is one of more than 700 college and university presidents in the U.S. to sign a statement in support of DACA. She communicated directly with SOU’s DACA students more than a year ago to assure them of the university’s unequivocal support, and has consistently told all segments of the campus community that the institution’s core values begin with the protection of students’ academic rights.
“I am a historian by trade, and understand how important it is to heed the lessons of the past,” President Schott said. “If we don’t protect the vulnerable among us, how long will we be safe from those same risks?”
Greetings to all members of the SOU community
I am writing to you from Guanajuato, Mexico, where SOU has enjoyed a sister-university partnership for 50 years with the Universidad de Guanajuato. I have been reminded in meetings with my counterparts at our sister university, and with officials from the City of Guanajuato, of what a warm and lasting collaboration we enjoy.
The U.S. began a relationship just over five years ago with a group of young immigrants who entered our country as minors. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy now protects almost 800,000 students and others who grew up in the U.S. and are determined to build their lives there, but lack the legal documentation to remain.
You have likely heard by now that President Trump will end DACA’s protections in six months, unless Congress acts to shield this group of young people from deportation.
I want to assure you that SOU’s commitment to all of its students – including those who have been protected by DACA – supersedes politics. We are obliged as an institute of higher learning to safeguard the ability of each student on our campus – regardless of immigration status, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, religious affiliation or political persuasion – to pursue his or her educational dreams.
SOU will continue to protect the privacy of all students, respect the value that their differences bring to our campus and accommodate the needs of those who face obstacles in their academic paths. We will resist immigration enforcement at SOU without legal compulsion or evidence of imminent risk to public safety.
Oregon law prevents SOU or any state agency from assisting with the investigation or apprehension of those whose only offense is their lack of immigration documentation. U.S. education privacy laws require that we maintain the confidentiality of students’ information, including their immigration status.
SOU is among the hundreds of colleges, universities and higher education organizations around the country that support the continuation of DACA protections. While we await Congressional action on this issue, students who feel they may be directly impacted by the changing DACA policy may contact Unete, a Medford-based advocacy center for farm workers and immigrants, at (541) 245-1625.
The bonds of friendship between SOU and Universidad de Guanajuato can be felt in every greeting and every hug I have received here. Faculty and administrators told me repeatedly today that it is those bonds that will ultimately prevail. Goodness, kindness and a spirit of determined cooperation will help us overcome our obstacles, regardless of scope or scale. Let us remain strong in our support of each other and in our commitment to education for all who seek it.
President, Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Boulevard
Ashland, OR 97520