President of the Univ of Arizona Reveals Embarrasment

I received an email from the Association of Borderland Studies yesterday that was a forward of an email sent by the President of the University of Arizona, Robert Shelton, addressed to the “Campus Community.” In this email he briefly mentions that some students and parents are choosing to withdraw themselves from the University because of SB1070. This is an important message from the academic community, and its heartening to hear someone from Arizona speak in a way that does not demonize an entire group of people.

To:         Campus Community
From:     Robert N. Shelton
Subject: SB 1070 – Arizona’s New Immigration Law

Many people and organizations on campus are expressing understandable concerns over the ramifications of SB1070, the new law that was signed last week by Governor Brewer.  The law directs local police to require anyone whom they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally to provide evidence (such as a driver’s license or alien registration document) of their lawful presence.  This has raised worries about racial profiling along with troubling questions about how SB1070 will affect the University’s international community on our campuses.

The University of Arizona is an institution that is international in its impact and reach.  We attract students and scholars from every corner of the world to our campus.  On any given day there are literally hundreds of people here from around the globe.  They come to our campus to learn, to collaborate in research projects, and to share the products of their own scholarship.

I cannot state more firmly that the health and safety of our international students, faculty, and professional staff are priorities of the highest order for us, and we are going to do everything possible to help each of them understand the law and its impact.  We intend to put in place whatever procedures are necessary to ensure their safety and free movement on campus and in our community.

Foreign students who have come to study at American universities are responsible for huge portions of the gains this nation has made in technology, medicine, materials, and so many other academic areas critical to our nation’s defense and economic prosperity.  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.

UAPD, which is one of the finest police operations anywhere, will be receiving extensive training on the specifications of the new law.  I have total confidence that they will abide by the letter of the law, which includes a provision that individuals may not be stopped solely on the basis of race, color or national origin.

We have already begun to feel an impact from SB1070. The families of a number of out-of-state students (to date all of them honors students) have told us that they are changing their plans and will be sending their children to universities in other states.  This should sadden anyone who cares about attracting the best and brightest students to Arizona.

Additionally, large numbers of UA students, faculty, staff and appointed professionals have expressed concerns that they or members of their families or their friends may now be subject to unwarranted detainment by police.  Many of these individuals are from families that have been residents of Arizona for generations.  While I am completely confident that no one need fear the way that UAPD will approach the application of this law, I nevertheless appreciate the anxiety that friends and colleagues are feeling.  It is a concern and fear that no one should have to harbor.

At its meeting in Phoenix later this week, the Arizona Board of Regents will be discussing the implications of SB1070.  I will keep you informed of any developments that might result from that meeting.

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