For an average college student, it is typical to worry about exams, money, and time management. However, in North Carolina, some students could now be worrying about something much worse.
In the last weeks of summer, emails were sent out to several faculty members of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) from the federal government. The emails were formal warnings, notifying the recipients that federal agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) might come to the university to ask questions on immigration, export control and national security issues.
This is not the first time faculty have received an email on the issue. In May, UNC’s Executive Vice Provost and Chief International Officer Ron Strauss shared a question and answer session on how information should be handled if the government comes to campus.
He emphasized that no information should be given without contacting the UNC Police or University Counsel. Doing so would violate the Federal Education and Privacy Act (FERPA).
While the issue is not new, the email from the federal government still caused panic among its recipients. There have been several recent ICE-led raids in the Triangle-area, and UNC’s staff does not want the government to intervene and become the next target location.
From this, the discussion on ICE coming to UNC has prompted meetings on dealing with the federal government, according to Dr. David Rubinow, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.
Rubinow sent out an email to everyone in the department saying that he attended a briefing on “Guidelines for Handling Information Requests from Federal Agents.” He notified his recipients that while ICE has come to college campuses, there were no scheduled meetings with faculty at UNC.
While numerous faculty members received the original ICE email, there were also a large amount of members who did not. Several people did not even know the ICE-intervention issue was even a problem.
Dr Altha Cravey, a tenured professor in Geography, was completely shocked when she heard the news. She had not received any emails on the issue and immediately worried of the potential implications of ICE coming to UNC.
“Why are immigration agents on our campus?” asked Cravey. “Do they seek to intimidate? Do they seek to chill criticism of ICE and silence scholars who study their actions? Do they want to punish individuals calling to abolish ICE? Do they seek the assistance of campus administrators? Time will tell.”
NC Policy Watch reached out to UNC administrators to find the reason why the federal government sent the initial email, but they did not release any information. Instead they gave a brief, ambiguous statement with part of it reading.
“The University has provided guidance to employees to understand how to use resources and get assistance when they receive requests for information,” said the statement. “UNC-Chapel Hill complies with requests for information that must be reported to federal or state agents on a variety of issues, some of which is requested on a routine basis.”
NC Policy Watch also contacted Bryan Cox, Southern Region Communications Director for ICE. He stated that UNC is a “sensitive location”, like other schools, churches and hospitals, meaning that raids are typically not conducted in these locations. In 2011, former president Barack Obama enacted the law that restricted ICE visiting sensitive locations under numerous conditions.
While President Trump seeks to have strict immigration control, the law still remains.
“I am not aware of any visits to UNC recently, but if there were, I can tell you it would not be immigration enforcement,” said Cox in a statement.