The Search for Sanctuary: Undocumented Students, DACA, and Trump (Columbia Spectator)

February 01, 2017

Excerpted from The Search for Sanctuary
By Ana Espinoza | February 7, 2017

What is Columbia doing?  

Despite ambiguity surrounding the “sanctuary campus” terminology, Columbia has slowly begun to take unambiguous steps toward protecting undocumented students on campus.

In his initial announcement, Coatsworth assured students that the University would not allow immigration officials on campus without a warrant nor share information on the immigration status of students without a subpoena. He also wrote that the University would “expand the financial aid and other support” that it makes available to students, in case DACA is repealed.

Coatsworth’s letter also promised “small group, private information sessions specifically for undocumented students in our community.”

There has been one of these sessions so far, on Dec. 19, led by Ixchel Rosal, the associate vice president for student life in the Office of University Life. Since Coatsworth’s announcement, Rosal has been designated as Columbia’s special adviser for undocumented students. Her responsibilities include working with undocumented students directly, liaising with other offices on campus to help them navigate Columbia’s sprawling bureaucracy, and ensuring that students don’t have to repeatedly describe their situations with each administrator they deal with.

“I’m really focused on the student experience, and making it as good as possible is really important to me,” she tells me. “So I appreciate the fact that students are experiencing some relief by being able to talk to me in this position.

“I think some of the things that were true before and remain true with greater urgency are that DACA and undocumented students felt like they were getting sent all over the place,” she adds. “That’s a hard place to be in under the best of circumstances.”

Rosal is also set to host a working group of undocumented students to help identify and address their concerns and will also be meeting with undocumented students individually.

Students hope that she’ll be a committed resource for them, someone that will understand them when other administrators can’t, like with the student at the panel.

In addition to designating Rosal as the point person for undocumented students, the University has also begun to offer pro bono law services to undocumented students.

In many respects, what Columbia has done already demonstrates substantial support for undocumented students.