University reaffirms its commitment to, support of undocumented students

By: Tom Fleischman,  Cornell Chronicle
March 6, 2018

On Sept. 5, 2017, President Donald Trump said his administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, enacted by executive action in 2012 by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also announced a six-month winding-down period for DACA. That period concluded March 5, and legislative inaction combined with multiple court orders have rendered the deadline virtually meaningless. What the future holds for the 800,000 people known as DREAMers, who entered the country as children of undocumented immigrants and have spent their entire lives in the U.S., is unclear.

What is clear, however, is Cornell’s continuing commitment to its undocumented student population, and to those thinking of applying to the university.

“Cornell welcomes DREAMers, invites their undergraduate applications to Cornell, and hopes admitted students will choose to attend Cornell,” said Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost.

Numerous resources are available on campus for undocumented students with and without DACA status, said Kevin Graham, assistant director for undocumented/DACA student support in the Center for Intercultural Dialogue.

The university took part Feb. 28 in the Friends of DREAMers Higher Education National Call-in Day, on which supporters called their legislative representatives and urged them to act swiftly to pass legislation regarding DACA by the March 5 deadline.

Graham said he opened his office to students, faculty and staff who wished to make calls, and provided help in making the call, including a script to follow.

Graham said more than a dozen students called U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-23rd) and Democratic U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y.) from his office. Members of the DREAM Team – a student organization and support network for undocumented students on campus – also made calls, as did members of the university’s leadership.

Graham was hired by the university two months ago. He said his presence on campus is evidence of Cornell’s steadfast support of its undocumented and “DACA-mented” students.

“The institution is expressing that it stands with, for and behind students in these challenging political times,” Graham said. “I also think that it signals to other institutions that Cornell is fervently supporting students, particularly this [undocumented] student population.”

There are several online resources for undocumented students. Admissions and financial aid information for DACA students and long-term undocumented students at Cornell is available on Cornell’s Financial Aid website. Students also can apply for assistance through the DACA Renewal Fee Emergency Fund online.

Graham’s office is at 626 Thurston Ave., Room G08; he can be reached at 255-7177 or via email.

He stressed that he was hired by Cornell to be a “conduit to resources and support” for Cornell’s undocumented/DACA-mented students.

“We’d like to get out the resounding idea that students are supported by this institution, by virtue of me being here,” he said. “That’s a symbol of the institutional investment in the future of this student population. … Please utilize me, that’s why I’m here.”

Other resources

  • Global Cornell’s resource page for DACA and undocumented students.

  • Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC): a nonprofit organization that offers information and guidance to undocumented students planning a college education.

  • 1,000 Dreamers - 1,000 Leaders: a binational program with the goal of empowering the Dreamer population in the U.S. and Mexico to reach their full professional potential.

  • The Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) promotes inclusion and achievement across the Cornell campus, so that students of all backgrounds excel in reaching their academic goals.

  • Legal assistance: Immigration practitioners at Cornell Law School will provide immigration legal assistance free of charge to current students and those who have accepted Cornell’s offer of admission, who have DACA status or are undocumented. The Law School will also assist current and new Cornell students who are facing a loss of immigration status owing to temporary protected status rescission or other reasons. Call the Cornell Law School Clinical Program at 607-255-4196 or email

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