Main content
Emory affirms support for undocumented students

Questions have been raised on many college campuses across the country regarding possible changes in federal immigration policy and enforcement that may impact DACA and undocumented students. Emory University leadership continues to update the Emory community regarding university initiatives related to support of DACA and undocumented students: 

January 18, 2017

Dear Emory Community:

On January 12, bipartisan groups in the House and Senate introduced the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act, which is legislation to provide relief from deportation for those eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We strongly support this legislation and are closely following its progress.

In light of the introduction of this legislation, we wanted to provide the Emory community with an update on initiatives related to support of our DACA and undocumented students.

On November 20, 2016, 17 campus organizations and more than 1,500 Emory faculty, students, staff, alumni, and other community members submitted a petition to the university administration. We responded with a message thanking the petitioners for their letter and reiterating the university’s commitment “to continue to welcome and support DACA students as members of our university community.” We indicated that senior leadership would explore, consistent with applicable federal and state law, how best to serve those in our community whose immigration status may put them at risk.

Staff and faculty across many offices and programs on campus have already begun the process of working directly with DACA and undocumented students and other community stakeholders to address issues raised in the petition. In addition, university administration has met with a number of undocumented students, sent letters outlining support services, and made phone calls to express support and discuss services available through Campus Life.

Regarding the issue of becoming a sanctuary campus, we have heard disparate views.  While the university will not be declared a sanctuary campus, which is a phrase with no legal meaning, we remain committed to supporting undocumented students at Emory and understand the symbolic value of the term.  

As the university administration continues to meet with key constituents and evaluate the steps it can take in partnership with other organizations to help our undocumented community members in these uncertain times, we are writing to remind you of the many resources Emory offers to help students meet various challenges:

The Office of Financial Aid supports, counsels and educates students in the financial aid process.  Undocumented students who are admitted to Emory as first-year, first degree-seeking undergraduate students and are determined by Emory to have financial need, will be awarded financial aid funds to assist in meeting his or her full demonstrated need. 

 Student Success Programs and Services assists Emory students in times of crisis, including, but not limited to meeting academic, medical, financial, and social challenges. SSPS offers judgement-free assistance and a safe space to access resources.

International Student Life is designed to connect international students to meaningful campus life opportunities, offer events and programs that highlight the diversity of nationalities and cultures at Emory, and provide opportunities for all students to connect in a meaningful way.

Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, a key Emory Campus Life partner, can provide confidential assistance for students, including crisis intervention, community referrals, and community outreach services. 

In addition, we are currently building upon existing programs and creating new initiatives to strengthen our support for undocumented students. Please visit our Dialogue at Emory website ( for updates on these initiatives.

Emory adheres to all applicable laws and will continue to do so.  Just as we respect the authority of government officials who are performing their legal duties, we respect federal and state laws that protect the privacy of our students, including those who are registered with the DACA program.  Following those laws, we do not share confidential student records with law enforcement agencies without a valid subpoena. 

While we do not know what changes in federal law to anticipate, we are dedicated to affirming all of our students’ sense of belonging in our community.  


Ajay Nair, Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

Stuart Zola, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Nov. 21, 2016


Thank you for the letter sent to the three of us yesterday. We appreciate your constructive approach, and recognize your deep caring for members of our community who are threatened by the possible changes in federal immigration policy and enforcement.
Emory’s values have not changed: our university community embraces students, faculty, and staff from many racial, religious, ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, national, and international backgrounds. We believe the intellectual and social energy that results from such diversity is critical to advancing knowledge.
In keeping with those values, Emory accepts undocumented students for admission and financial aid under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program. We will continue to welcome and support DACA students as members of our university community.
In the coming weeks, Emory’s senior leadership will be assessing your letter, and evaluating how best to serve those in our community whose immigration status puts them at risk.  We ask that you recommend to Dean Ajay Nair community members from your coalition to work with our leadership team. Please try to keep the number of representatives to a small number so we can meet expeditiously.
We believe there is much we can do at Emory and in partnership with other organizations to help all of our community members flourish in these uncertain times.
Claire E. Sterk, President
Stuart Zola, Interim Executive Vice President and Provost
Ajay Nair, Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

The letter, titled "A Sanctuary Campus for Undocumented Members of the Emory Community," is available here. It was drafted and endorsed by 17 campus organizations and signed by hundreds of students, faculty and staff.

Recent News