Regents punt on plan to allow undocumented students to work at UC campuses

Coral del Mar Murphy-Marcos

View of backs of a group of students and others watching large screens displaying events inside a UC Regents meeting.
Photo credit: UCLA Dream Resource Center

The University of California Board of Regents was expected to devise a plan to eliminate University hiring restrictions for undocumented UC students by November, but that didn’t happen.

During their meeting on the UCLA campus earlier this month, the Regents announced they had failed to come up with a promised work authorization plan, and no new deadline for doing so was established.

“For too long, undocumented people have been subjected to inhumane treatment across our society and especially in the workplace,” said Yesenia Jimenez, a graduate student at UCLA, during the Regents meeting on November 16. “As a child of two undocumented parents, I understand this clearly.”

Students from the “Opportunity for All” coalition, which has been pushing for the new policy, protested at the UCLA campus, but security guards prevented them from entering the closed-door Regents meeting.

In May, the Regents established a working group, whose membership included UC President Michael V. Drake, charged with crafting a plan by the end of November. This initiative followed a yearlong campaign by students and legal scholars across UC campuses advocating that undocumented students be allowed to work at campus jobs. The working group has met nine times, and the University’s legal representatives have had over half a dozen conversations with Opportunity for All advocates.

Legal scholars from Opportunity for All maintain that federal employment and immigration laws do not apply to state entities, including public universities like UC campuses. However, President Drake contends the issue is not as straightforward. “Our conversations to date have shown how complex and delicate this issue is, and how critical it is for the University of California to get this right,” he said in a memo, highlighting numerous legal considerations.

Students are concerned by what they see as UC’s slow response.

“This is frustrating because it’s been a year of constant organizing,” said Diana Ortiz Aguilar, an undocumented undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. “There’s a lot of organizing left to do and work to be done to push them towards the right path.”

A group of around a dozen young students smiling and laughing in a group hug outside an office building.
Photo credit: UCLA Dream Resource Center

Ortiz Aguilar, who is a member of the immigrant reform-focused group Undocumented Student-Led Network, mentioned that various campuses would hold workshops and rallies to raise awareness about the Opportunity for All campaign.

If the Regents propose and approve a policy, an estimated 4,000 UC students could be allowed to pursue jobs in the University system.