Arizona College Officials Worry About Effects of New Immigration Law

April 30, 2010

Arizona college administrators say they are concerned about the effects the state's new immigration law, which Gov. Jan Brewer signed this week, will have on their campuses.

Some out-of-state students have already told the University of Arizona they are not coming because of the law, which asks local and state law-enforcement officers, including the campus police, to ask people whom they suspect are illegal immigrants to provide evidence of legal immigration status.

And although some scholars say the law might not survive constitutional challenges, college officials report that students and faculty and staff members are worried that the state policy will create an atmosphere of fear on campuses, particularly for Hispanic and international students, and may discourage some people from attending college at all.

Melissa Vito, vice president for student affairs at the University of Arizona, says as many as 10 students or parents have already e-mailed to turn down offers of admission in light of the law.

Some of those students, she says, are from Hispanic families and are concerned about racial profiling. Others turning down offers are parents who say they do not want their children going to college in Arizona on principle.

"The problem is, it creates a perception about the state," she said.

Training the Campus Police

What effects the law will have on the campus police remains unclear. Like all police officers in the state, campus officers will be required to go through training for how to carry out the law. But spokespersons from the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University said this week they do not know what that training will entail or when it will take place.

University presidents say their campuses are concerned about possible racial profiling.

In a statement e-mailed to the campus community, Robert N. Shelton, president of the University of Arizona, said that he has "total confidence" that the campus police will follow a provision in the law that says individuals cannot be stopped solely on the basis of race.

Mr. Shelton said many students and faculty and staff members have expressed concerns that police officers could detain them or their families and friends, even though their families have been living in the United States for generations. He expressed his confidence in the campus police but said he understood the anxiety of people on campus.

"It is a concern and fear that no one should have to harbor," he said.

Mr. Shelton said he was particularly concerned about the law's effect on the college's international students, who may be concerned about what documents they will need to carry or simply may feel unwelcome.

"We must do everything possible to ensure that these students continue to feel welcomed and respected, despite the unmistakably negative message that this bill sends to many of them," he said.

Elsewhere, Tom Bauer, a spokesman at Northern Arizona University, said it was premature to discuss the full effects of the law, but the college shared concerns about possible racial profiling and a negative effect on the recruitment of international students.

Sharon Keeler, a spokeswoman for Arizona State University, said that admissions officers will be communicating with admitted students to reinforce the message that the campus is a "warm and welcoming place for people of all races and ethnicities, as well as international students."

Elizabeth D. Capaldi, provost of Arizona State, said in a statement that the law has raised concern both on campus and with some of the college's global partners. She emphasized that the college remains committed to diversity and will not require change in any university policy.

"We will ensure that the new law not be misinterpreted or misapplied," she said.

Disincentive to Enroll?

Rufus Glasper, chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges, said he was concerned that the law could negatively affect the number of Arizona students, both those who are in the state legally and those who are undocumented immigrants, who enroll in college.

In 2006 Arizona voters approved a measure, Proposition 300, that requires students who cannot prove they are legal immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition at Arizona colleges, though the institutions remained open to all students. The new law, Mr. Glasper said, "will likely deter undocumented students from continuing their education, with adverse consequences for the economy of this state."

"Just as importantly, the many Latino citizens and lawful immigrants who attend college now face the offensive and discriminatory prospect of incessant demands to show their documents," he said. "We can expect that some will find this prospect discouraging and will discontinue their pursuit of education and training as well."

The Arizona Board of Regents will meet this weekend to discuss the effects of the law on campuses across the state. Jennifer Grentz, a spokeswoman for the board, said that college presidents will meet with legal counsel in an executive session to discuss the legal ramifications of the new policy for higher education.