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Students in a lecture hall
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Students in a lecture hall

University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner shared a message on December 29 to students, faculty and staff of the UH campuses.

To our UH System ʻohana:

The University of Hawaiʻi is steadfast in our commitment to serve all members of our community, regardless of citizenship status. Well over three years ago the UH Board of Regents adopted a policy to extend eligibility for resident tuition rates to undocumented students, including but not limited to those who have filed for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). And more recently, I proudly joined with hundreds of college and university presidents to publicly support continuation of the DACA program by the federal government. Our undocumented students are an integral part of our community and will continue to be extended all the rights, privileges and services available to our students, from application through graduation.

We will afford our undocumented students protections under all applicable laws. UH does not maintain lists of students by immigration status or national origin, and will continue to utilize and abide by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects against most releases of students’ personal information, including immigration status, without the written permission of the student or a subpoena or court order.

UH security staff are not sworn officers of the law; they do not and will not enforce immigration laws, which are the purview of the federal government. UH will not voluntarily support efforts to deport our students based solely on their immigration status. Immigration law is highly specialized and we encourage concerned students to educate themselves regarding options and resources. The National Immigration Law Center provides useful information, and UH has proactively reached out to confirm that the local ACLU is available and willing to assist our students with legal concerns.

The university also provides a wide array of support services for all of our students, including those who may be undocumented. Students or others who experience intimidation or harassment should report it to campus authorities, and those who need assistance coping should reach out to campus support services, such as counseling centers.

While there are calls locally and nationally for the creation of “sanctuary campuses,” such a designation has no clear definition nor any legal significance. We commit to do all we can under the law to protect our undocumented students and members of the UH community from harassment and unlawful invasions of privacy.

As our state’s only public higher education system we have a deep responsibility to provide high-quality affordable education to advance our people, our communities and our islands. That mission requires that we support and celebrate diversity, respect and caring. We must support free speech and free expression even as we work to overcome intolerance and prohibit harassment based on immigration status, race, religion, national origin, gender, LGBTQ+ status or disability. Our commitment to these values has been and remains clear and firm.

David Lassner

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