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Study Examines How NYPD Policing Affects Undocumented College Students


Oct 20, 2022

Jesús López - a senior at CUNY John Jay College - works a 40 hour-per-week job, in addition to being a full-time student, to pay his school tuition. He is one of the more than 6,000 undocumented students in the CUNY system who does not qualify for financial aid because of his immigration status.

This summary about NYPD and college students was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

Police stops around college campuses have a substantial negative effect on course credits completed by undocumented men, a new study finds, using administrative student data from the City University of New York.

The study is among the first to examine the impact of immigration status and law enforcement across various ethno-racial groups, the researchers said. It also examines how the NYPD Stop, Question and Frisk local policing program academically affected undocumented college students at CUNY — the largest urban public university system in the U.S. 

The data identified 13,000 undocumented students among more than 350,000 first-year students. The research was published this month and conducted by professors and researchers at Harvard, CUNY, DeZIM Institute, Stanford and Stockholm University.

Black and South Asian undocumented young men are more negatively impacted by police stops around college campus: These groups experience heightened surveillance by NYPD, the study notes. Meanwhile police stops on campus seemingly had little effect on documented students or undocumented women. Tentative evidence in the study shows that Pakistani and Bangladeshi students experience the largest negative effect among Asian men.

As they’re at highest risk of being stopped by the police, these groups developed avoidance strategies. 

Policing decline led to more academic participation: The decline in the NYPD Stop, Question and Frisk policing strategy from 2011 to 2014 substantially increased the academic participation of undocumented men in college. During that time, police stops declined by 95%, while undocumented men at CUNY took an average of 2.4 more course credits.

The researchers did not find the pause had any significant effect on GPA.

Study can unlock how inequality and social-economic integration affects immigrants: Undocumented immigrant students fear police encounters and the threat of deportation that comes with each possible encounter. That can lead them to avoid all government contact, even in protective institutions and so-called sanctuary cities, the study indicates. This could imply that the chilling effect of local policing is even more severe outside of New York City and for immigrants who are not attending college.

Read or download the full report by Joscha Legewie, Amy Hsin, Niklas Harder, and Linna Martén. 


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Washington D.C.

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