Supporting Undocumented Students at Goucher College

Updated October 10, 2019

News of increased deportation of undocumented immigrants across the country, as well as highly publicized litigation surrounding attempts to limit or end the Deferred Action for Childhood Program (DACA), have prompted questions among undocumented and international Goucher students and the Goucher community that supports them. Goucher will continue to monitor developments that may affect the college and its students, faculty, and staff and update the community as appropriate.

Questions & Answers

What support does Goucher College offer to undocumented students?

Goucher admits academically qualified students and provides campus services to them regardless of their immigration status. Many offices within the Division of Student Affairs, including the Counseling Center, the Office of Residential Life, and the Center for Race Equity and Identity, offer support services to students. Individualized needs and assistance are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Affected students are encouraged to reach out to Karen Sykes, international student advisor, as a first-level contact to assist in navigating individual student questions and circumstances. Conversations might include discussion of financial resources, connections to legal resources, learning about advocacy efforts for legislation supporting childhood arrivals, and/or emotional support. Individual legal advice cannot be provided. The college chaplain, is also available to have confidential conversations with students seeking support.

What is DACA?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an executive action issued by President Barack Obama in 2012 that provides administrative relief from federal deportation laws and employment authorization to certain qualifying undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children before June 15, 2007.

On Sept. 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated the phase out of the program. Several lawsuits have been filed against the administration for terminating DACA unlawfully and the situation regarding DACA is currently in flux.

An explanation about DACA and the timeline of this litigation can be found on the website of the National Immigration Law Center. To stay informed on the latest DACA litigation–related developments you can follow NILC on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to its email list (sign up at

I am a DACA student. What changes can I expect?

Because of the ongoing changes and litigation surrounding the DACA program, it is important that DACA students work closely with an immigration attorney to take all reasonable precautions related to their personal circumstances. In addition, if you are a DACA student who has work authorization, you should monitor developments related to your employment authorization closely.

Goucher has compiled a list of resources, available in CREI, that includes local agencies and attorneys who may be able to provide free or low cost services to undocumented students. Resources related to immigration legal assistance are available online.

Comprehensive information about DACA can be found on the website of the National Immigration Law Center.

I am a DACA or undocumented student. Can I study or travel abroad?

Because of the uncertainty of the situation, Goucher recommends that DACA students consult with an immigration attorney if they want to study or travel abroad. Students should also consult with the Office of Global Education to discuss alternative ways of fulfilling the college’s study abroad requirement that do not require leaving the country.

I am a Goucher faculty or staff member. What should I do if an immigration enforcement agent contacts me requesting information about a student?

Goucher faculty and staff members are reminded to adhere to all applicable laws and college policies, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Pursuant to FERPA, the education records of all students, regardless of their immigration status, are protected from disclosure to outside parties. This includes students’ addresses, class schedules, information about their family members, information about immigration status, and similar information.

Goucher’s FERPA Policy outlines the situations in which Goucher is permitted to disclose information from student records to third parties. Generally, the college cannot release information from student education records to outside parties, including federal agents, without permission from the student, a judicial warrant, a subpoena, a court order, or as otherwise required by law. Although the college is permitted to disclose “directory information” to outside parties, Goucher employees are instructed to consult with the general counsel before responding to such a request if the request is outside the regular course of business (e.g., request of a student’s transcript).

It is important to remember, however, that there are many reasons why federal agents may contact Goucher or be on campus, including routine compliance matters connected to Goucher’s normal operations. The Department of Homeland Security and its enforcement agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have broad authority, and Goucher is required to cooperate with them on issues unconnected with undocumented students. For example, federal immigration officials may contact Goucher’s staff or come to campus in connection with Goucher’s international student visa sponsorship program and not for purposes of locating or detaining an undocumented student.

If a federal immigration or local law enforcement official contacts a Goucher employee requesting information about a student, the employee must adhere to FERPA and contact the Office of the General Counsel for further guidance.

What if a government agent comes to campus and requests to see a student or asks for documents about a student?

Employees should follow these steps:

  • Call the Office of Campus Safety (410-337-6112) and then escort the government agent to the Office of Campus Safety to talk to the college’s legal counsel. Tell the agent that this is the college’s policy.
  • The Office of Campus Safety will notify the office of general counsel of the government agent’s presence and requests.
  • The director of campus safety and general counsel will meet with the agent and verify the agent’s identity and the contents of the legal documents, before questions are answered or documents provided.
  • If a valid warrant has been presented for arrest of a community member, absent exigent circumstances, Goucher will inform the community member of the warrant or court order and escort such person to the Office of Campus Safety to meet with the agent. This is Goucher’s operating procedure when a warrant is presented for any reason, not only in situations involving an undocumented student.
  • If a valid warrant, subpoena, or court order has not been presented, Goucher will not provide information from education records to the government agent.

What is the protocol of the college’s Office of Campus Safety concerning questioning and apprehending individuals based upon immigration status?

The office’s policy is not to inquire about a person’s immigration status. This includes crime victims, witnesses, or others who call or approach an officer seeking assistance. This is consistent with the office’s longstanding practice. The office wants all individuals to feel comfortable reporting a crime, cooperating with officers or reaching out to the officers for assistance. If undocumented individuals believe that reporting a crime, sharing information with the police, or seeking help from the police could negatively impact them because of their immigration status, they are less likely to do so. That is not in the best interest of their safety or campus safety generally.

What is the difference between an ICE detainer and an arrest warrant?

An ICE “detainer” is a request from ICE to a state or local law enforcement agency to hold an individual for an additional 48 hours after the individual’s release date so that ICE can arrange to take custody of the individual. State and local law enforcement agencies are not obligated to enforce ICE detainers and many agencies have chosen not to do so.

In contrast, an arrest warrant is a legal order issued by a federal or state judge or magistrate that authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual after a determination that there is probable cause to believe that the person has committed a criminal offense.

Should undocumented students fear being apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement while on campus?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a policy in place that advises against enforcement actions at schools or churches. These are considered “sensitive locations.” A FAQ on sensitive locations can be found on the ICE website.

Goucher’s public spaces are open to the general population, and the college does not have the ability to bar federal enforcement officials from the college’s public spaces. However, residential spaces such as on-campus residential rooms are considered private, and federal enforcement officials are not permitted in such spaces absent a valid criminal warrant or consent from the resident. An administrative warrant alone does not permit ICE officials to enter a private residence.

What if an undocumented student is subject to an order of removal from the United States?

Goucher does not have the legal ability to intervene in immigration court proceedings if a member of our community is detained or subject to an order of removal. Immigration court proceedings are federal administrative hearings. However, Goucher may write letters and conduct other advocacy in support of the student during the removal hearing in the immigration court if the student is otherwise in good standing.

In the unfortunate event that a Goucher student were to be subject to removal from the United States, Goucher would take all reasonable steps within its power to ease the student’s transition. Such steps and support will depend upon the individual student, his or her academic program and progress, and resources abroad, and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Such support may include, but is not limited to, providing expedited readmission if the student can return to Goucher; helping place the student with a foreign institution, including one of Goucher’s global partner institutions; and guiding the student in continuing his or her studies through distance learning when available in the program of study. Goucher administrators and academic advisors will work with an affected student individually to assess practical options and the best path forward.