Undocumented Student Leaders Secure First Victory in Opportunity for All Campaign as UC Announces its Support of Removing Hiring Restrictions for Undocumented Students


Student Leaders Stress the Need for Students to Have Central Voice - “Nothing About Us, Without Us, is For Us”

May 18, 2023

LOS ANGELES – Undocumented student leaders at the University of California secured a critical victory in the Opportunity for All campaign today as the UC Board of Regents announced their plan to move forward with removing hiring restrictions for all UC students, regardless of immigration status. At a UC Regents open session today, the Regents voted to move forward to implement Opportunity for All by appointing a Regents working group that, by the end of November of this year, will develop an implementation plan to ensure the success of the program.

The Opportunity For All Campaign, a coalition of the Undocumented Student-led Network (USN), the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law, and the UCLA Labor Center, have identified that the federal prohibition on hiring undocumented people does not include state entities like the University of California. This means that the University of California already has the legal authority to hire undocumented students for all educational employment positions.

29 of the most respected immigration and constitutional law professors from around the country, including Dean Erwin Chemerinsky from Berkeley Law and Dean Kevin Johnson from UC Davis Law, agree: state entities are not bound by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), the 1986 law that bars undocumented workers without work authorization from being able to legally work in the U.S.

The Board’s resolution did not make clear whether the university would consult with students on their plan for implementation. The campaign continues to demand that students directly impacted by the policy have a seat at the table.

“This is a huge step toward ensuring equal access to opportunities for all students across the University of California system. This victory is the work of undocumented students who mobilized across campuses to ensure that we and our peers are no longer excluded from crucial educational employment opportunities solely because of our immigration status,” said Karely Amaya, UCLA graduate student in Public Policy and a leader of the Undocumented Student-led Network (USN). “Yet while this is an encouraging step in the right direction, we are continuing to stress the need for urgent action and to urge the UC to meet with us. My peers and I are continuing to suffer every moment we are denied equal access to educational employment opportunities on our own campuses.”

Currently, thousands of college students in California are unjustly barred from obtaining paying jobs on campus solely due to their immigration status. Simply put: undocumented students at the University of California cannot access the same opportunities as their peers.

“First and foremost, we as undocumented UC students must have a seat at the table - and that has yet to be the case leading up to this point. Nothing about us, without us, is for us. We alone know what it means to be undocumented and denied equal access to opportunities on campus,” said Jeffry Umaña Muñoz, a UCLA undergraduate and USN leader. “We look forward to partnering with UC leadership to work to ensure that all students who want to apply for on-campus jobs have the opportunities and the resources we need to do so, regardless of our immigration status.”

“We applaud the University of California for exercising moral courage in establishing a pathway to remove hiring restrictions for undocumented students,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, faculty co-director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law. “We look forward to working with the University to quickly develop the soundest policy that centers the perspectives and lived experiences of UC students.” 

“Today’s announcement is not only a victory for undocumented students, but a victory for immigrant rights and educational access,” said Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center. “California undocumented students have once again paved the way for immigrant students throughout the country who deserve opportunities that have been unfairly denied for far too long."

Many undocumented students in higher education do not have access to DACA, which means the UC has the responsibility to make sure that all non-DACA students have equitable educational and career opportunities. 44,326 undocumented students in higher education in California cannot apply for educational employment opportunities simply because of their status. This includes work study jobs, paid internships, and student leadership positions in campus organizations, graduate student researcher and teaching assistant positions, required practicums and other educational and professional opportunities necessary for full access to educational opportunities.

“As a DACA recipient, I know that access to employment is life changing and opens doors to many opportunities. I am pleased that the Board of Regents has taken initial steps towards implementing our proposal,” said Ju Hong, director of the UCLA Dream Resource Center. “The undocumented youth leaders will continue to take matters into their own hands and organize our community to take action until the University of California has provided equal access to educational employment opportunities for all students regardless of their immigration status.” 


About the Undocumented Student-Led Network:

The mission of the Undocumented Student-Led Network (USN) is to create a statewide network of immigrant youth leaders to work towards advancing an immigrant reform agenda. USN commits to expand and advocate for undocumented student resources, as well as build community and create safe spaces across campuses. Ultimately, the USN aims to uplift undocumented voices and accurately portray the undocumented experience.

About UCLA CILP:

Founded in 2020, the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law expands the law school’s role as a national leader in immigration law and policy, generating innovative ideas at the intersection of immigration scholarship and practice and serving as a hub for transforming those ideas into meaningful changes in immigration policy.  

About the UCLA Labor Center:

The UCLA Labor Center believes that a public university belongs to the people and should advance quality education and employment for all. Every day we bring together workers, students, faculty, and policymakers to address the most critical issues facing working people today. Our research, education, and policy work lifts industry standards, creates jobs that are good for communities, and strengthens immigrant rights, especially for students and youth. The UCLA Labor Center is housed in the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, a multidisciplinary research center dedicated to the study, teaching, and discussion of labor and employment issues at UCLA.

About the UCLA Dream Resource Center: 

The UCLA Dream Resource Center (DRC), a program team of the UCLA Labor Center, trains the next generation of diverse leaders—immigrant youth and allies with lived experiences—to be at the forefront of social justice movements and achieve equity and justice for workers, families, and communities.

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