University of California Declines Proposal to Allow Campuses to Employ Undocumented Students

The University of California has decided to suspend its plan to allow undocumented students to acquire campus jobs for a year. This decision has dampened the efforts made by UCLA law professors and student advocates over the past year. The plan aimed to provide a legal pathway for the estimated 4,000 undocumented UC students to earn a paycheck. These students often struggle financially to cover their expenses, as they are ineligible for federal grants. The president of the UC, Michael Drake, stated that the proposed legal pathway is not currently viable and carries significant risks.

The UC Regents, the top governing board of the UC, voted to formally rescind the policy exploring the hiring plan. This decision was met with disappointment and anger from students, some of whom had been on a hunger strike to pressure the UC to adopt the hiring measure. Despite the decision, there is the possibility for reevaluation and progress in the future.

The legal theory behind the proposal argued that the UC, as a state agency, is exempt from a federal law that prohibits the hiring of undocumented immigrants. However, the UC’s general counsel and their legal team expressed skepticism about the viability of this theory. They concluded that the hiring plan isn’t recommendable or legally viable.

The risks associated with the plan were deemed too great by the UC. Human resources employees and legal staff could face criminal or civil prosecution for knowingly participating in hiring practices that violate federal law. The UC itself could also face civil fines, criminal penalties, or debarment from federal contracting. Additionally, there was concern about the potential impact on the billions of dollars in federal research grants the UC receives.

While the legal argument in favor of hiring undocumented students has support from prominent immigration law scholars, the UC ultimately decided that the risks outweighed the potential benefits. The UC is known for upholding legal protections for undocumented students and has previously sued the Trump administration over its ending of the deferred action program.

The ability to work legally is crucial for immigrants in the US, but DACA, the program that allows young undocumented immigrants to have jobs, has faced challenges in recent years. The UC proposal aimed to provide opportunities for undocumented students who don’t qualify for DACA. However, the current legal landscape and potential changes in administration make the implementation of the hiring plan uncertain.

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