President John D. Simon

Speeches and Writings

Message from President and Provost Regarding Immigration Issues

December 14, 2016

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

In the weeks following the presidential election in early November, there has been a great deal of conversation and speculation about what changes we could expect from a new administration. Much of that discussion has focused on the potential impact on international students and on students who come to this country without documentation.

Let us be clear: Lehigh values all members of its community-- international and domestic -- regardless of their immigration circumstances.

At Lehigh, we have taken the following steps:

  • We joined with a group of more than 300 universities in signing an open letter urging the current and future leaders of our country to uphold and continue to expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which began in 2012. We share the sentiments of our fellow higher education leaders who emphasize the positive impact that DACA has had on our institutions and on the ways it has deeply enriched our campus cultures.
  • We sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation to express our concern regarding possible changes to the status of international students who come to Lehigh, caps on student visas and possible restrictions on students from certain countries. In that letter, we called on our legislators to support our work in ensuring the free and open exchange of ideas that benefits our campus and our nation.
  • We are scheduling meetings with our local Congressman and our U.S. Senators to continue this discussion and to enlist their support.

With respect to issues and concerns at hand and ahead on campus, there has been continuing dialogue and conversation here at Lehigh, and we have been involved in some of that dialogue. Most recently President Simon met with a small group of students and faculty who drafted and are circulating a petition asking Lehigh to declare itself a sanctuary campus. Both of us participated in a forum for international students in late November, and Provost Farrell attended an open forum earlier this week in Williams’ Global Commons. At that forum, a group of panelists discussed the issue with more than 60 students, staff and faculty. We will continue to engage in and encourage these discussions.

Having encountered much focus on and use of the term “sanctuary campus,” we want to address that directly. While the term itself does not carry a specific legal definition, it is one that engenders passion and may have substantial symbolic meaning. Declaring Lehigh a sanctuary campus does not extend protections that aren’t already in place, and employing that language may, in fact, be misleading as it may suggest a level of protection we will not be able to provide. It is, however, incumbent upon all of us to assure those who feel vulnerable that they are supported and are valued members of our community.

We want all in the Lehigh community -- most especially our students, staff and faculty who may be impacted by the possibility of either new legislation or the repeal or suspension of DACA -- to know and be assured that we are and will continue to be committed to provide for all a safe, welcoming and supportive campus environment. Several of those who met with administrators and who are engaged in this work have articulated a need to feel safe and secure here at Lehigh as a baseline expectation, and we understand and support that.

We will continue to work to support all the members of this campus community who may feel vulnerable in the face of uncertainty. We expect our community to respect differences, engage in dialogue, and more broadly, put into practice the Principles of Our Equitable Community that we have committed to as an institution. We must continue to work to build an inclusive environment at Lehigh. Our support also includes continuing our current practices to safeguard private information within the fullest extent of the law – including information regarding immigration status -- and to provide guidance and information on resources related to immigration and student status.

For those with very specific questions about their current status and the potential impact of changes to the laws with a new administration, the Office of International Affairs can provide assistance. The OIA can be reached at (610) 758-2981, or at http://global.lehigh.edu. The Office of General Counsel also provides information on its website regarding agencies that could provide legal representation. More information can be found at generalcounsel.lehigh.edu. Students seeking individual guidance can also contact the Dean of Students office at (610) 758-4156 or studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/dos.

We are heartened by the passion of the students, staff and faculty who are leading these discussions. We appreciate the fact that we are in an environment where academic freedom provides us with the ability to vigorously and safely debate complex issues and that we have been part of that dialogue. We encourage our community to continue to engage around these very important issues and identify ways we can individually and collectively support each other.

We will continue to monitor developments and keep the campus community informed.

John D. Simon, President
Patrick V. Farrell, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost