#FocusImmigration: UPD Enforces New State Policy to Protect Undocumented Students

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Published April 8, 2019
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The Montclarion
The University Police Department does not ask students about their immigration status, nor do they plan to unless they have a warrant for an arrest. Carly Phelps | The Montclarion

University President Susan Cole announced that the Montclair State University Police Force has to abide by the State’s new rules that protect immigrants and their families.

The State of New Jersey has been enforcing new rules to protect immigrants and their families since November 2018. According to the New Jersey government, the rules restrict the assistance the state and state police officers can give to federal immigration authorities like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Montclair State reported to the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education that they had 58 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. This number was verfied by the director of International Employment and Immigration Elizabeth A. Gill.

A police officer in the state of New Jersey cannot stop someone who they think is undocumented. They can not question, arrest, search, detain or ask about the person’s immigration status. The only time a person can be questioned or arrested is if they are under a criminal investigation and a warrant is present.

According to Capt. Kieran Barrett of the University Police Department (UPD), they have been following these practices all along.

“There hasn’t been a change in our policy so much as we’re happy to see that New Jersey Attorney General’s office put out guidelines for all police officers,” Barrett said. “This is what we’ve been doing all along. We’ve been doing what I think is the right thing.”

Before the enforcement of the new rules, law enforcement was using their judgment regarding immigration.

“Here in the state of New Jersey, there was very unclear direction to law enforcement what we should be doing for immigration enforcement,” Barrett said.

Thus far, there has been no issue with immigration status at the university. The police department does not have on record the number of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students the university has.

The police department here is not involved in immigration detention, and they do not ask about immigration status.

“We as a university and we as a police department are not in the business of checking immigration status or turning people over to federal authorities,” Barrett said.

Barrett continued saying that the UPD would only involve themselves if ICE came with a warrant for the arrest of a student for criminal activity.

“If they contact us, we will refer them to their own methods for that, in other words, they don’t just come here and take people away,” Barrett said.

Information regarding the citizenship and immigration/visa status of individual students is not accessible.

“We try to talk each semester with our international student organizations and let them know their rights and some of the things they need to be aware of so that they know that they can trust us,” Barrett said. “We have to make sure that they feel welcome here and that they can get the help that they need.”

According to Montclair State’s policy on immigration, information regarding the citizenship and immigration/visa status of an individual student will not be shared with organizations outside the university community, including federal organizations.

Senior psychology major Emilie Fernandez shared her thoughts on the protection of undocumented students at Montclair State.

“I feel like it is an important step for Montclair State. It should be passed for other areas,” Fernandez said. “It’s a safe space for all of us, regardless of our status.”

Members of the Student Government Association were approached and declined to comment.

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