Statement by President George Bridges of The Evergreen State College: Actions in Defense of Our Undocumented Students

I wrote to the Evergreen community three weeks ago regarding the college’s response to the federal executive order on immigration and anticipated federal actions regarding undocumented students.  I am writing now to provide an update to that message.

Since I last wrote, I have had opportunities to meet with more undocumented students, in addition to faculty, staff, and students who have family members who are undocumented.  Their stories – each one unique – are profoundly moving.  We are fortunate to have them as members of our college community. We have an obligation to speak up for these members of our community who, when they choose to speak up for themselves, do so at great personal risk.

The leadership and advocacy of Governor Inslee and Washington State Attorney General Ferguson in recent weeks, which led a federal court to block the executive order on immigration and refugees, encourages me. At the same time, we have seen immigration enforcement actions locally and nationally that have arrested and detained many undocumented individuals across the country.

Evergreen remains committed to protecting and supporting our undocumented students in every way legally possible. Evergreen will not willingly cooperate with any efforts, federal or local, to collect or retain any information that identifies them as undocumented, to defund any financial aid they receive, or to deport them.

We are committed to the academic success of our undocumented students and to providing them with the opportunity to finish their degrees at Evergreen.   

For those who are directly affected by federal immigration policy, the details behind these general commitments are important, so I want to reiterate important points I have made in previous communications and public remarks:

  1. Any records we hold that would identify students as undocumented we regard as protected under federal student privacy laws.  We will not turn over those documents to anyone without a valid court order, warrant or subpoena. 
  2. If we receive an order or subpoena demanding such documents, we will confer with the Office of Attorney General (AG) before acting, and seek assistance and support from AG to quash the order or subpoena.  Ultimately, final action on an order, warrant or subpoena will rest with the AG.
  3. The college’s police officers do not and will not ask any student, staff or faculty member they contact about their immigration status.
  4. The college’s police officers will not base any of their interactions with students, faculty and staff on their immigration status. 
  5. The college’s police officers have no cooperative agreements with federal immigration officers and will not participate with federal officers in immigration enforcement actions. 
  6. While the college does not have the legal authority to bar federal agents from campus, we will not assist federal agents in any deportation action taken against our students.
  7. The State Need Grant and, starting in the Fall, the Evergreen Need Grant are available to eligible students who complete the WAFSA.
  8. The college recognizes its responsibility to help undocumented students finish their degrees.  In the event that changes in federal policy adversely affect students’ financial ability to finish, we will prioritize the needs of undocumented students within the resources we have available.

Finally, based on my own experience over the past several weeks, and in response to proposals from students, the college will be creating opportunities for staff and faculty to learn more about the challenges undocumented students face at Evergreen. In the coming week, with the help of the LatinX Standing Committee and other staff in key positions, senior staff will begin work to provide these students with additional support they need to achieve the highest possible levels of academic success. An important part of this work will entail identifying and correcting administrative obstacles undocumented students encounter on our campus.