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Nation of immigrants, Yale edition: Salovey pitches reform

Unless you count Elihu Yale, the Welsh merchant and donor for whom it is named, Yale University is not widely seen as a university of immigrants. But its new president, Peter Salovey ’86PhD, might be changing that.

In his inaugural freshman address, Salovey talked about his Jewish immigrant grandparents and his father's path—through free public education—to the American dream. With less fanfare this week, Yale also released a statement in which Salovey declares the importance of immigration reform to Yale, higher education, and the nation.

"Universities have long struggled with an immigration system that does far too little to encourage talented students and scholars to remain in the United States and contribute to our society," the statement begins:

Yale benefits greatly from being a community of individuals who come from all parts of the world. Many of our international students will return to their countries of origin following completion of their studies, but others wish to remain in the United States to put their skills, knowledge, and achievements to work. Moreover, Yale’s ability to recruit the very best scholars and teachers, regardless of national origin, increases the wealth of talent available for teaching, research, and innovation and collaboration with industry for economic development.

Salovey's statement joins the American Association of Universities—to which Yale has belonged since its inception in 1900—in applauding the immigration bill that the Senate passed this summer, which includes the DREAM Act's path to citizenship for young people whose parents brought them to the US illegally. He calls on the House of Representatives to "sustain the momentum of immigration reform and fix a broken system."

Statements on national issues "don’t come out of the Yale president's office very often," acknowledges Stephen Pitti ’91, a professor of history and American Studies and director of Yale's Ethnicity, Race & Migration program.

"President Salovey understands that Yale is a global university, it’s an immigrant university," says Pitti, who was among a group of alumni who asked the new president to make a statement on immigation reform. (Although, he hastens to add, "I have every reason to believe that this was already on his agenda.")

"Immigrants have played an important role historically in the creation of this university,” Pitti says. "We do think this is the start of President Salovey taking the lead on these issues. We're very excited.”

Filed under Peter Salovey, immigration, Stephen Pitti
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