LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, undocumented student organizers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), along with professors from the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law and the UCLA Labor Center, launched Opportunity for All: a campaign that could remove significant barriers to important educational opportunities for thousands of undocumented students in the UC system.
Legal research spearheaded by CILP has identified that the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) — the 1986 federal prohibition on hiring undocumented people — does not include state entities like the University of California. CILP’s analysis shows that because the University of California is an arm of the state, it faces no legal restriction on hiring undocumented workers. This means that the University of California can authorize the hiring of the most qualified applicant for all educational employment positions, regardless of immigration status. And CILP is not alone in its interpretation: 28 of the most distinguished immigration and constitutional law scholars from around the country, including Dean Erwin Chemerinsky from Berkeley Law and Dean Kevin Johnson from UC Davis Law, all agree.
Currently, approximately 44,326 undocumented college students in California do not have equal access to on-campus opportunities — including work study jobs, paid internships, student leadership positions in campus organizations, graduate student research, teaching assistant positions, and other educational and professional opportunities for deeper involvement with their institutions — solely because of their immigration status.
“I am exhausted from waiting and trying to fight for my livelihood as a student. I have a job offer, right now, that I’m unable to accept because of my status. The University of California has both an opportunity and an obligation to remove barriers to employment for all students, on all 10 of their campuses, regardless of immigration status. They have the legal authority to hire me and they need to do so now,” said Karely Amaya, an undocumented student leader who’s pursuing a public policy degree at UCLA.
“President Drake and the University of California Office of the President have stated that one of their priorities is for the University of California system to more accurately and equitably mirror the population of the state: the Opportunity for All campaign is a critical first step and they should unequivocally support it,” said Abraham Cruz Hernandez, an undocumented senior at UCLA majoring in public affairs and labor studies. “By expanding campus employment opportunities for undocumented students, the University of California system can now make tremendous strides in their presidential priorities — this is an opportunity that they cannot pass up.”
“I turned down a full ride to Harvard because, at UCLA, I was promised that I was not my status, rather, just a student. And that because of that, UCLA would provide me with resources and support me holistically. The UC has failed to uphold that promise every single time since I matriculated. They have not supported me, let alone given me an equal opportunity to succeed,” said Jeffry Umaña Muñoz, an undocumented third year student at UCLA. “Today, we make clear that the University has the legal authority to provide us equal opportunity and it must do so immediately. This is a chance to enact real change that can truly affect and change people’s lives. The University needs to heed its mission and act today.”
“While the DACA program is currently being challenged in the courts, University of California students are taking matters into their own hands,” said Ju Hong, DACA recipient and Director of the Dream Resource Center at UCLA. “Today, we demand the University of California system uphold their values of inclusivity and respect on campus by providing all students, regardless of their immigration status, access to job opportunities. Every student should be treated with respect and have the opportunity to thrive on campus. No student should be barred from opportunities simply because of their immigration status.”
“Some of the finest students in my career have been undocumented students, who have overcome tremendous obstacles to achieve higher education.” said Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center. “We would hire these students today if given permission by the University of California. Not only are our students are being unfairly treated, but the university is also negatively impacted as it excludes the powerful work and input from thousands of undocumented students across its campuses. The University of California can and should play a leading role in advancing full rights and opportunities for all our students, regardless of their immigration status.”
“This is an important opportunity for the University of California to support undocumented students, and it has been hiding in plain sight. For nearly 40 years, state entities thought they were bound by the federal prohibition against hiring undocumented students when, in fact, they were not,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, Faculty Co-Director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law. “The ban on hiring undocumented students has had a profound effect on each of the organizers leading this campaign, along with thousands of undocumented students across all University of California campuses who have been denied equal access to the educational opportunities their peers receive. Based on our extensive legal research, we know that the University of California system has the power to allow the hiring of undocumented students today. It’s not a matter of whether the University can do it, but rather whether they are willing to do so.”
The public sign-on letter for support is here: bit.ly/Support-O4All
The letter sent to UC President Michael V. Drake to ask for his support is here: https://bit.ly/Read-O4All
The legal memo, signed by 28 of the nation’s leading constitutional and immigration law experts, is here: https://bit.ly/3Cqrp6q
A full recording of the press conference is here: https://bit.ly/3CGGelw
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 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.