We Welcome Undocumented Students
Western Washington University strives to welcome and serve undocumented students with resources and services which support their academic and co-curricular success. We recognize the challenges and barriers you have overcome to reach Western, and we look forward to celebrating your successes while you are here.
News and Updates
Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, of which President Randhawa is a member, announces a letter in support of the Dream Act of 2019 and the SECURE Act.
Western supports services and resources specifically for undocumented students, as well as working to make all campus services and resources welcoming and inclusive of undocumented students.
The Academic Advising & Student Achievement Center offers academic support for first-generation, multicultural, and non-traditional students including undocumented students.
Career Services provides resources for undocumented students around continuing education, jobs, and completing applications and other forms.
The Counseling Center facilitates student success and psychological well-being through culturally sensitive clinical services, outreach, and consultation.
The Student Health Center at Western Washington University is a primary care medical clinic specializing in college health. The Student Health Center is staffed by a team of board certified family physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and support staff. They strive to support student success academically, physically and emotionally.
Established in 2021, the Office of Multicultural Student Services (MSS) is a structure of support centering students with marginalized identities. This support includes providing leadership and direction for the Ethnic Student Center, Blue Resource Center, and Black Student Coalition.
The Blue Resource Center (BRC), located on the 7th floor of the Viking Union, is committed to affirming, celebrating, and supporting undocumented students and mixed-status families at Western Washington University by providing:
- A welcoming community space
- Educational programming and community-building events
- Peer support and social connection
- Information about current issues affecting undocumented students and communities
- Resource referrals
- Help with navigating potential academic, employment, financial, and social barriers
The Ethnic Student Center (ESC) is an organization within Multicultural Student Services of Western Washington University and was established in 1991. Our goal is to help students Affirm their identity, Build a sense of community, and Cultivate leadership (Our "ABCs"). The ESC is home to diverse clubs open to students of all backgrounds. Many students within the ESC have moved on to become leaders on campus and in their communities. The Blue Group, one of our student clubs, provides undocumented students with a safer space to meet other undocumented students, find resources and services, and build community.
Contact: Elizabeth Stephan
Location: Wilson Library 274
Phone: (360) 650-2061
University Policies and Communications
Students who came to the U.S. without inspection or who have overstayed their visas are considered undocumented. At Western, many undocumented students came to the U.S. with their families as children, and have attended K12 schools in Washington, graduating from high school. They may or may not have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status.
State House Bill 1079 (REAL Hope Act) allows eligible undocumented students to be considered as “residents” for purposes of higher education, which permits them to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities. Students qualify for HB 1079 if they have:
- Lived in the state of Washington for at least three years.
- Graduated from a Washington state high school and completed their senior year of high school in Washington.
- Earned the equivalent of a high school diploma, such as a GED.
- Continuously resided in Washington since receiving the high school diploma or a GED.
Students who continue to meet the criteria of HB 1079 remain eligible to continue their studies at Western – or any public college in the state – and pay in-state tuition. Some undocumented students are also eligible for state-funded financial aid, such as the State Need Grant and Passport to College.
WWU Financial Aid awards partial need-based tuition waivers and Western Grant funds to students who qualify for HB 1079 and are eligible for resident tuition and fee rates. Students need to submit the WASFA (Washington Application for State Financial Aid) to qualify. Western has also set aside “micro-grant” funding using non-state resources for undocumented students to help with tuition and school expenses, rent, food, car repairs and other emergencies. Awards are typically around $500. Please contact Dina Murphy in the Financial Aid Office at Dina.Murphy@wwu.edu or 360-650-3221 for more information.
Students with DACA can hold jobs on and off campus, using their work permits. Some students with DACA may also be eligible for State Work Study (SWS) as part of their financial aid packages, depending on employment authorization, residency and financial need. On-campus employers are required to verify the identity and legal authorization to work for all paid employees, including SWS student employees, via the completion of I-9 (employment eligibility verification). DACA recipients can continue to use valid Employment Authorization Cards (EAC) in the I-9 verification process to establish both identity and employment eligibility, though this is not a guarantee of continued employment.
On-campus employers are required to complete I-9 documents for all employees. If you do not have legal authorization to work, you cannot hold campus employment, including State Work Study positions. We recognize that this is a challenge for undocumented students, and continue to explore legal avenues for employment.
Under our Policy on Providing Immigration Information, Western does not require undocumented students to disclose their immigration status unless required by law, e.g., in verifying eligibility to pay in-state tuition under HB 1079. Western employees are not permitted to collect information about immigration status unless required by law. Western does not undertake efforts with federal immigration authorities to investigate, detain or arrest individuals, and does not release student educational records to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Patrol, or any other third party official without written consent of the student, unless a legal exception to release such records applies (such as a lawfully obtained court order or subpoena). If such an effort is made to obtain student records, Western will make every reasonable effort to notify the student in order to provide sufficient notice to seek a protective order.
Bellingham Police Department does not allow officers to detain people solely on suspicion of their immigration status, and does not ask about status, according to department policy. WWU University Police do not detain people solely on suspicion of their immigration status and does not ask about status, per Western’s policy on Providing Immigration Information. University Police procedures are similar to those of the Bellingham Police Department. Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jail, does share information with agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement if someone in their custody is being sought on a judicially obtained U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer. However, the Sheriff’s Office is tasked with enforcing state and local laws, not immigration, and deputies don’t arrest people on ICE detainers.
The FAQ page on the ICE website states:
Pursuant to ICE policy, enforcement actions are not to occur at or be focused on sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship, unless;
The policy is intended to guide ICE officers' and agents' actions when enforcing federal law at or focused on sensitive locations, to enhance public understanding and trust, and to ensure that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so, without fear or hesitation.
- exigent circumstances exist;
- other law enforcement actions have led officers to a sensitive location, or
- prior approval is obtained from a designated supervisory official.
Locations treated as sensitive locations under ICE policy would include, but are not be limited to:
- Schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; as well as scholastic or education-related activities or events, and school bus stops that are marked and/or known to the officer, during periods when school children are present at the stop;
- Medical treatment and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities;
- Places of worship, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples;
- Religious or civil ceremonies or observances, such as funerals and weddings; and
- During a public demonstration, such as a march, rally, or parade.
Enforcement actions covered by this policy are apprehensions, arrests, interviews, or searches, and for purposes of immigration enforcement only, surveillance. Actions not covered by this policy include activities such as obtaining records, documents, and similar materials from officials or employees, providing notice to officials or employees, serving subpoenas, engaging in Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) compliance and certification visits, guarding or securing detainees, or participating in official functions or community meetings.
More information is available on the ICE website, as well as DHS and ACLU. These federal policies are subject to change, and may not always be observed. Western cannot exclude federal law enforcement agencies from campus entirely. However, Western’s policy on Providing Immigration Information states:
- ICE, CBP or other third party officials cannot remove a student or employee from university property or interrogate a student or employee without a valid warrant signed by a judge.
- Access to non-public portions of campus by ICE, CBP or other third party officials requires the approval of the University’s Director of Public Safety and Assistant Attorney General.
If you see an ICE vehicle or agent on campus, or hear that ICE is on campus, please call the University Police at 360.650.3555 to inform them. There are some administrative, non-enforcement duties which ICE and CBP perform on campus, such as verifying international students’ documentation. If you don’t feel comfortable calling University Police yourself, you may ask a university employee to call for you.
Know your rights: The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project has numerous resources (in multiple languages) to help undocumented immigrants understand their rights when interacting with various law enforcement officials and officers at their place of work, in public, and at home. “Know Your Rights” wallet cards are available at the Student Outreach Services office, the Center for Education, Equity and Diversity (CEED), and the Ethnic Student Center (ESC). There is also detailed information from the National Immigration Law Center here on What to Do if You Are Arrested or Detained by Immigration. Most important to remember:
- You have the right to ask for an officer’s official identification, and, if at home, presentation of a warrant to enter the premises.
- You have the right to remain silent and the right to speak with a lawyer.
- You are not required to share any information about where you were born, your immigration history, or your criminal record, if any.
- You do not have to turn over passports or consular documents unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
- You do not have to sign anything.
Western’s Student Code of Conduct (Revised)
WAC 516-21-110 Harassment (other than sexual harassment or discriminatory harassment). Harassment is conduct by any means that is severe, persistent, or pervasive, and is of such a nature that it would cause a reasonable person in the complainant’s position substantial emotional stress and undermine their ability to work, study or participate in their regular life activities or participate in the activities of the University.
WAC 516-21-115 Discrimination and discriminatory harassment. Discrimination or discriminatory harassment is prohibited on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religion, age, color, creed or ethnic origin, physical, mental or sensory disability (including disability requiring the use of a trained service animal), marital status, and/or veteran status.
If you experience any discrimination/harassment based on or involving race, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, contact the Civil Rights and Title IX (CRTC) Office at 360-650-3307.
This FAQ was developed using information from multiple sources, including the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Northwest Immigration Rights Project, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, among others. This FAQ and information about on- and off-campus resources, will be updated as more information and guidance becomes available.
Local and National Resources
Resources for college-bound and college-attending undocumented youth. Scholarship resources, college information
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Technical assistance and support to legal services providers, and educational materials for immigrant communities
Immigration Law Help
State by state directory of organizations which provide legal help to low-income immigrants
Resources, informational guides, policy and law updates, and a directory of lawyers, social workers, and other service providers
My Undocumented Life
News, information, scholarships, and resources, with an emphasis on students
National Immigration Law Center
National clearinghouse for all kinds of immigration law and policy issues. Very informative and regularly updated information and guides
United We Dream Notifica App
A secure messaging app which will help you (or people you know) plan, learn, and act if you are at risk of detainment and deportation
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Direct legal services, advocacy, and community education, including free workshops.
Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration
Higher education presidents advocating on behalf of policy and resources for undocumented students. Western Washington University is a member of this alliance.
United We Dream
The largest immigrant youth-led community in the U.S. Resources, toolkits, guides, research, and community connections.