President Gutmann Letter Supporting DACA

In response to a letter from a group of Penn faculty received Nov. 14, President Amy Gutmann expressed her continued support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Cathy Bartch, associate director of the Latin American & Latino Studies Program (LALS) and Tulia Falleti, director of LALS, thanked Dr. Gutmann on behalf of the faculty for her advocacy and work for immigration reform and impassioned response on the issue of immigrant students. Dr. Gutmann’s letter dated Nov. 16 appears in full below.


Dear Penn faculty colleagues,

I thank you for your heartfelt letter committing to solidarity with our students. I share your deep care and concern for all our students and especially those students who are undocumented immigrants. In challenging times such as these, we all must find strength in honoring and recommitting ourselves to the ties that bind our wonderful Penn community, including our cherished values of inclusion, diversity, equity, and mutual respect.  There has perhaps never been a more critical time for us to stand up against hatred, intimidation, discrimination, prejudice and bigotry. Your deep sense of commitment to our students and our campus community represents Penn at its absolute best.

I am pleased to address the specific issues that you raised in your letter and also more generally to update you on our thinking on the subject of immigration reform, which I have avidly defended and will continue to do so. Along with a terrific Penn team, I have consistently communicated to political leaders—through myriad means—to drive home the critical importance of supporting essential immigration reforms. We have publicly stated our well-backed belief that our nation’s immigration system is broken, including in an open letter that I authored in 2013 during the Immigration Day of Action.  I am unwavering in my commitment to advocating for immigration reform.

We at Penn have unrelentingly and publicly supported a path to citizenship for undocumented students and workers by advancing the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. We have noted that the DREAM Act could significantly cut the federal deficit while also removing barriers to higher education for more than 70,000 undocumented young people. As we all know, these great students have grown up in our communities; they attended our schools; and they have both the strong desire and the impressive capacity to make vital contributions to our nation’s future economic strength and global competitiveness. We fervently believe—and we publicly stand up for our belief—that reforming our nation’s restrictive immigration system will enable all our youth to reach their fullest potential, making our country stronger and our future brighter. We will continue to do so.

Here at Penn, undocumented students are currently eligible for University-supported need-based financial aid by applying as international students. We stand behind our policies at Penn, which permit undocumented students to receive Penn-provided grant aid on the same basis as all other international students. As always, Penn Student Financial Services (SFS) stands ready to assist any Penn student who is experiencing a family financial crisis or a change of circumstances.

At present, undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status are eligible for work-study positions while those without DACA are not eligible for work-study positions because of federal requirements. SFS currently works with undocumented students without DACA to help them to find other forms of aid that can replace work-study positions, and will continue to do so. Our commitment to our undocumented students will remain strong.

Undocumented students at Penn often tell me, and I am enormously proud of the fact, that they also benefit greatly from the support and mentoring of faculty like you as well as from caring alumni, committed academic advisors, and knowledgeable staff at spaces such as La Casa Latina and the Greenfield Intercultural Center. As Penn's President, and as a scholar of democracy and education, I will always be an avid defender of the ever more important benefits of educational opportunity. I join you—and I am honored to lead Penn—in these efforts to support our students by speaking consistently and forcefully about the importance of diversity and inclusion in education and the need for compassionate, comprehensive reform of our nation’s immigration policies. I will continue delivering this impassioned message until these needed changes to our laws are fully implemented.

Especially in challenging moments, we will resist any urge to give into cynicism or divisiveness, and instead we shall lift ourselves, our university and society by advocating for inclusion, cooperation, and respect for all persons. I am so grateful for your continued commitment to Penn and for your unwavering support for our wonderful students.   

With warm regards,

Amy Gutmann