Provost Scott Coltrane says university plans to provide attorneys to those confronted by immigration officials

University of Oregon Provost Scott Coltrane said the university plans to provide attorneys for any student, staff or faculty approached by immigration officials, due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent executive order to ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Coltrane made his statement during a Jan. 30 townhall discussion in the EMU, where students asked questions to administrators, specializing in international immigration, on what effect Trump’s travel ban, or promises to repeal DACA, would have. He spoke, from the audience, after a UO Portland campus student asked if the university would provide any services for those confronted by an immigration officer.

“If you are confronted, or if faculty members or staff are confronted, by immigration officials, we want you to go to our general counsel and we can help protect you.” he said. “We will be working on the details, in terms of providing attorneys for students, staff and faculty.” Coltrane did not specify when such details would be released, other than “in the next couple of days.”

Kevin Reed, the University attorney who heads UO’s General Counsel, said he has been answering questions from campus community members on their constitutional rights. He requested that students, faculty, or staff, if confronted by immigration enforcement, should notify his department.

“It is absolutely my office’s commitment, with the support of President Schill, that we would work aggressively with all legal means available to us to defend the constitution and defend our people,” he said.

(Left to right) Maria Blanco, Executive Director, Undocumented Legal Services Center at UC Davis; Jennifer Doreen, an international employment specialist; Rosa Chavez, the assistant director of the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence; Abe Schafermeyer, director of international student & scholar services and Betsy Boyd, associate vice president for federal affairs. (Andrew Field/Emerald)

Roughly 180 students, faculty and staff came to the question-and-answer discussion. Panelists included four UO administrators: Rosa Chavez, the assistant director of the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence, Jennifer Doreen, an international employment specialist, Abe Schafermeyer, the director of international student & scholar services and Betsy Boyd, the associate vice president for federal affairs.

On the same day as the event, President Schill announced, in an email to campus, that the administration has begun “the process” of creating an administrative position to be a resource for undocumented students. Chavez spoke about other services she feels undocumented immigrants need on the campus: a space for students to meet with each other; counseling services specifically for undocumented students; increased financial aid to students, including book loans; vetting new scholarships that only offers aid to legal permanent residents or citizens; and adding a page to the UO website dedicated to undocumented immigrants, with information on sanctuary campus and tuition equity. The CMAE director also said that her department wants to offer “ally training” for all faculty and staff.

The administrators spoke alongside Maria Blanco, a staff member from the UC Davis School of Law. Blanco leads a program providing legal services to undocumented students and their families at all University of California universities. Blanco’s department has spent months working on DACA renewals and U visas.

“In the fight to preserve DACA, I want educational institutions to be hand-in-hand, arm-and-arm, with the immigrant rights community,” Blanco said. “It is also an education issue.”

In Nov. 16, students and faculty separately made demands to the administration, mostly focused on protecting undocumented UO students. However, students made additional demands for the UO to increase acceptance of Muslim international students and refugees. The demands were a part of the national sanctuary campus protest movement, which called for universities to declare their institutions “sanctuaries.”

During the town hall, a student asked why UO President Schill, despite vowing to protect students from immigration enforcement, declined to officially declare the UO a “sanctuary campus.”

It’s a good way of communicating what we want, what our values are, what we are trying to achieve,” said Betsy Boyd, the UO lobbyist from federal affairs, “it’s not as good a way from a public policy standpoint of communicating ways to protect people because it is less clear what that in fact means when it refers to a piece of legislation.”

According to panelist Abe Schafermeyer, there are 40 students at the UO affected by Trump’s executive order to ban citizens and refugees entering the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries.

For Ahmed Sarkez, a UO junior who attended the event, the ban impacts him as a Libyan international student. If Sarkez needs to return home, he won’t be able to come back to the United States. Sarkez asked the panelists if, in the case that this happens, he would be able to finish his UO degree online. Schafermeyer responded that the option doesn’t exist yet, but he is encouraging affected students to meet with him and make such suggestions. 
“The only thing that I would be able to do now is just wait and seek more advice, whether I should make the decision of going back or not to visit or whether different purposes might occur in my situation,” Sarkez said.

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Andrew Field

Andrew Field

Former Japan Times intern. Daily Emerald reporter and FishDuck editor. Tokyo-Singapore-Houston-Eugene, but Oregonian forever. West Ham United and Portland Timbers fan.

If you got a tip for me on an issue you feel I should be covering, don't hesitate to leave me an email ([email protected]).