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MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

Reaffirming our support for undocumented students by Chris Peterson SM '13

and clarifying our policies for applicants as Regular Action approaches

As many of you know, there has been a lot of uncertainty in the United States since the election last month, with many students sharing their hopes and fears regarding the new administration, and many faculty articulating and affirming values they share as educators. In President Reif’s letter to the community on November 9, the day after the election, he wrote that “Whatever may change in Washington… it will not change the values and mission that unite us.”

One subject of uncertainty since the election has been the educational prospects of undocumented students, including (but not limited to) those who are registered for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Since 2012, when the program was launched, we have admitted and enrolled students with DACA; in 2014, the Tech profiled Jose G. ’17, the current President of DreaMIT, the student group for undocumented students at MIT.

Because DACA (like immigration enforcement overall) is essentially a practice of executive discretion, no one knows yet if and how it will change under the next administration. In late November, President Reif joined hundreds of other university Presidents in signing an open letter that described the “moral imperative” and “national necessity” of the program.

Here in admissions, we have seen more questions from prospective undocumented students about whether they can still apply to and study at MIT, particularly as the Regular Action deadline approaches. The short answer is: yes, they can. As President Reif said, our policies and procedures have not changed. Undocumented students may still apply using the same application as everyone else, are still subject to the same evaluation as everyone else, are still held to the same standard as everyone else, and, upon admission, are still granted access to the same educational opportunities, campus community, and financial aid as everyone else. Gerardo Garcia-Rios, Assistant Dean/Interim Co-Director in Student Support Services (S^3), is an advisor for all DACA students at MIT and works closely with them to help navigate the academic, personal and social aspect of their experience here.

In order to further clarify and reaffirm our support for admitting and educating undocumented students, I wanted to share this letter, sent last week to the MIT community by Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart. The Chancellor wrote:

The election has created uncertainty about the future of DACA and, as a result, understandable concern for our undocumented students. We have met with these students to understand and respond to their needs, and we will continue to do so.

I say to you what we have said to them in person: MIT’s commitment to our undocumented students will not change. We will do everything we can that is legally permissible to continue to enroll undocumented students and ensure they have the same student life and learning experience as documented students.

The Chancellor and Office of the General Counsel also published a document outlining institutional policies regarding undocumented students at MIT. It states:

MIT is committed to making every effort to ensure, within the bounds of what is legally permissible, that the experience of undocumented students is as similar as possible to the experience of all other students. MIT’s financial commitment to them will continue with or without DACA, and MIT will ensure that no undocumented MIT students will lack the legal advice they need.


The MIT Mission, which is a touchstone for the work we do in admissions, states that our mission is to “advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” As an unofficial advisor to DreaMIT, I know how amazing our undocumented students are, how much they have contributed to MIT as students, and how much they have to contribute to the nation and the world afterward. I am glad that the Institute is reaffirming its support for our current undocumented students, and hope that this blog post helps clarify and communicate that to prospective undocumented students who, like so many of their friends and classmates, also dream to study at MIT.