WATERVILLE — President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to cancel a program protecting undocumented youth has prompted Colby College faculty and staff to urge the college be a “sanctuary center of higher education” that ensures students be protected from deportation and receive legal guidance if necessary.

Trump has vowed on his first day in office to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals instituted by President Barack Obama by executive action in 2012. The DACA initiative gives undocumented youth a temporary reprieve from deportation, among other protections, helping hundreds of thousands of people lawfully work, obtain driver’s licenses and bank accounts and travel.

A letter dated Nov. 16 and signed by 113 Colby staff and faculty members says there are DACA students at the college, though it is not known how many. The Morning Sentinel could not immediately reach any of those students Tuesday. The letter asks what will happen Jan. 20, 2017, when Trump is inaugurated as president and presumably cancels the program.

The open letter addressed to Colby leaders, including President David A. Greene, asks “how the college is providing for the safety and security of students, faculty and staff who may lose protections for their immigration status or face other serious problems.”

“We urge you to act expeditiously to make arrangements that will ensure that the students whom we welcomed to Colby and pledged to support with financial aid will continue to receive our welcome and our support,” the letter states.

In a letter to the Colby community, dated Monday, Greene pledged the college’s commitment to those who are vulnerable.


“Let us reaffirm at Colby our commitment to a deep and abiding respect for our shared humanity, and let our differences in backgrounds, experiences, identities, and cultural and political beliefs be a source of strength and discovery,” Greene writes in his letter. “I can assure you that we will do all in our power to secure the safety of our community members, no matter their nationality, immigration status, race, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity, and that we will fight policies that run counter to our mission of educating the most talented students from across the country and around the world.”

His letter, posted on the college’s website, also offers suggestions about what people can do to help make an impact, as many had asked for his advice. He recommends they help build a better society by listening to and talking honestly with one another and that they cast aside stereotypes and “rid ourselves of the presumptions that supporting any particular candidate or party reveals what we need to know about an individual’s beliefs.”

“And let us engage in life off the Hill to know our neighbors and to join with them in building a stronger, more vibrant social fabric.”

Greene also suggested using the tools of education and scholarship to gain a more nuanced understanding of issues and amplify arguments based on evidence. He advised that people become engaged in the political process, vote, fight for positive change and hold elected officials accountable.

Faculty and staff members, meanwhile, also have asked Colby officials to secure the financial aid packages of undocumented students if DACA is canceled and offer other assistance, such as legal guidance, to such students.

The letter is addressed to Greene; Lori Kletzer, provost and dean of Colby faculty; and Eric Rosengren, chairman of Colby’s board of trustees. Rosengren is a 1979 Colby graduate and president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.


Greene is one more than 200 college and university presidents who, as of Tuesday, had signed a statement supporting DACA and urging business, civic, religious and nonprofit organizations to join them in supporting DACA and undocumented immigrant students.

“To our country’s leaders, we say that DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded,” that statement says. “We are prepared to meet with you to present our case. This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity.”

The letter, titled “College and University Presidents Call for U.S. to Uphold and Continue DACA,” was organized by Pomona College, of Claremont, California. Greene is joined by presidents from Bates and Bowdoin colleges, as well as those from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and other top institutions in signing that letter.

Meanwhile, Columbia University on Monday announced a plan to provide sanctuary and financial to undocumented students, the Columbia Daily Spectator reported. The university also pledged to withhold undocumented students’ information from immigration officials without a court subpoena and would prevent immigration officials from entering campus without a warrant, the college paper reported.

The statement signed by Greene and other college presidents says America needs talent and DACA students have been raised and educated in the U.S., are part of the community, represent what is best about the country and, as scholars and leaders, are essential to the future. It continues: “DACA beneficiaries on our campuses have been exemplary student scholars and student leaders, working across campus and in the community. With DACA, our students and alumni have been able to pursue opportunities in business, education, high tech and the nonprofit sector; they have gone to medical school, law school and graduate schools in numerous disciplines. They are actively contributing to their local communities and economies.”

Karen Kusiak, assistant professor of education at Colby, signed the letter addressed to Greene and other Colby officials. Kusiak said in a phone interview Tuesday that a number of Colby faculty members discussed devising a letter and it became a community effort. Faculty members circulated the letter via email before they became aware of the letter being circulated among college presidents.


Kusiak said she is concerned about students and faculty and staff members who might not be protected legally for their immigration status in light of Trump’s vow to overturn Obama’s DACA policy.

“It has already created an uncertain atmosphere and anxiety among students,”she said.

While Kusiak said she does not personally know any DACA students, she has spoken with those who are afraid for their friends and families who may be affected.

“That’s also weighing on our students,” she said.

Kusiak added that she has read stories that cite officials in the forthcoming Trump administration saying they plan to go after criminals, and a priority is not to go after students on college campuses, but that there is no assurance that down the road they will be protected.

Lauren Lessing, director of academic and public programs at the Colby College Museum of Art, who was recently elected a Waterville city councilor, said that like many educators around the country, she and her colleagues are alarmed by Trump’s promise to cancel DACA.


“Nearly three-quarters of a million young people have enrolled in it,” she said of DACA. “Recent surveys by the Center for American Progress and the National Immigration Law Center show that the vast majority of these folks — 96 percent — are working or in school and that the program is already having a positive economic impact on their communities.”

Lessing said she has no idea if any DACA students are enrolled at Colby and it is none of her business what their immigration status is, but they deserve protection and care from the college, which accepted them and made a commitment to protect their privacy and personal safety.

“That’s my strongly held opinion,” she said.

Lessing praised Greene for his stance on the issue and his pledge that Colby officials will do everything in their power to ensure safety for community members regardless of nationality, immigration status, race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.

“I’m quite proud of his commitment to these principles,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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