Massachusetts Attorney General Releases Advisory to Universities on Rights of Immigrant Students on Campus

October 17, 2017 – The Office of the Attorney General recently provided the public with an advisory for Massachusetts Colleges and Universities regarding immigrant students. In the advisory, many suggestions to protect immigrant students are given for the Commonwealth’s private and public colleges and universities, also known as Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs). This advisory was intended to address only students that are undocumented or who have been granted temporary legal protection such as grantees of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This does not address international students on an F-1, J-1 or similar visas.

The advisory includes information about IHEs as sensitive locations. Sensitive locations are areas were immigration enforcement activities such as surveillance, interviews, searches, and arrests are generally prohibited absent special circumstances or prior approval. The advisory suggests that IHEs create a protocol to be used in the event of an immigration officer requesting access to a space on campus or to seek an interview with someone of the campus community. The Attorney General’s Office example protocol is:

  • First, ask the immigration officer for his or her name, identification number, and the name of the agency with which he or she is affiliated;
  • Second, ask the immigration officer for a copy of any warrant, subpoena, or court order he or she has;
  • Third, inform the immigration officer that you are not attempting to obstruct his or her actions, but you are not authorized to respond to the request and need to contact the appropriate campus person before you can provide access; and
  • Fourth, ask the immigration officer to wait outside while you contact your IHE’s campus police, legal counsel, or other appropriate point person.

In general, IHE’s cannot prohibit immigration officers from accessing public portions of campus, but may restrict them from accessing private spaces which include dorms, lecture halls while classes are in session, research labs, kitchens, locker rooms, and maintenance areas. Immigration officers can access these private areas without the consent of the IHE only if they have a judicial warrant.

Other suggestions from the Office of the Attorney General as to how to protect immigrant student’s information are to:

  • Review the information from students to ensure that no information about a student’s (or family member’s) immigration or citizenship status is available.
  • Limit the types of information they consider “directory” (name, contact info, address) by excluding info that may be released to citizenship or immigration such as birthplace or language spoken at home
  • Provide students with regular opportunity to opt out of the disclosure of student’s directory information and may provide this notice in easily accessible formats such as academic catalog or school website
  • Provide training to staff on privacy and confidentiality policies
  • Review existing contracts with immigration agencies regarding info sharing to ensure that immigration status info is shared only when required by a valid subpoena or court order

For the full advisory from the Office of the Attorney General please click here.