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LTE: NU leaders endanger students, employees through E-verify

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LTE: NU leaders endanger students, employees through E-verify

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Since 2009, Northwestern faculty, staff and students have voiced concerns about NU implementing a discretionary program that turns over private data from students, staff and faculty to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through a program called E-Verify. As the timeline on this matter shows, in the last decade, various NU legal and administrative officials have responded to our concerns by misrepresenting the necessity of E-Verify for those not directly employed by government contracts. We now have proof as to the shocking scope of individuals affected at NU and the false claims shared with us about the University’s need to participate.

In response to litigation under the Freedom of Information Act, we received the Memorandums of Understanding NU signed to initiate and renew its participation in E-Verify, which then-General Counsel Philip Harris refused to release last spring. Through this litigation, we received national data revealing that NU is the only research university in Illinois to participate campus-wide and that its participation is an extreme outlier: fewer than 1 percent of institutions of higher education have in fact signed these MOUs obligating campus-wide participation.

The MOUs with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services prove that NU is under no legal obligation to force the vast majority of its community to provide their personal data to a Homeland Security database that, according to the ACLU, poses threats to our privacy and that violates the national criteria proposed for campuses seeking to welcome noncitizens.

In sharp contrast with hundreds of research universities in states not obligated to participate in E-Verify, NU forced over 76,000 students, staff and faculty to submit personal information to databases that share their information with third parties. Anyone employed by NU since 2010 is in this database. Our analysis of the USCIS Excel sheet itemizing NU’s submissions of our data reveals that over 190 individuals were specifically targeted by NU for Homeland Security as attempting to work without authorization approved by E-Verify. The final determinations are not yet clear; we expect to receive additional data from this litigation shortly.

As the MOUs clearly state, NU can after 30 days notice stop reporting data on all new hires who are not directly working under federal government contract. At that point, everyone who is working on a federal contract will have been already included in the E-Verify database.

The only new hires whose data would need to be submitted would be those working directly on a federal contract, which is exactly the situation of our peer institutions. If the University of Chicago (and over 99 percent of other institutions of higher education) can target only new hires working on federal contracts for E-Verify, then there is no logistical impediment to prevent NU from doing this as well.

We have been sharing our concerns with President Morton Schapiro and Provost Jonathan Holloway since last spring. On Jan. 8, 2019 we wrote a letter to them stating that, in light of NU’s stated intention to protect the educational opportunities of its noncitizen community and this new information proving the inaccuracy of claims about NU’s obligations to USCIS, we wanted them to reconsider their earlier position. We requested that NU immediately send the 30-day notice of an intent to withdraw from campus-wide participation in E-Verify. President Schapiro and Provost Holloway did not reply, though they regularly opine to The Daily their support of DACA students, a population NU’s own attorney has agreed is at special risk from E-Verify.

We write now to ask others to join us in sharing with Schapiro and Holloway your concerns by signing this petition.

Students Organizing for Labor Rights (SOLR)
Seri Lee, Weinberg 2020
Allyson Bondy, Weinberg 2020
Erykah Nava, Weinberg 2020
Sharmain Siddiqui, Weinberg 2020
Natalie Vega, Weinberg 2019
Jessica Wang, Weinberg 2019

Northwestern University Graduate Workers, nugraduateworkers@gmail.com

Jorge Coronado, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
President, NU-AAUP

Alessandra Visconti, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of French and Italian
Vice President, NU-AAUP

Jacqueline Stevens, Professor of Political Science
Secretary, NU-AAUP

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