Wednesday, July 24

Throwback Thursday, Week 7: Undocumented students wrapped in red tape


Elizabeth Delgado and Vanessa Portillo deconstructed myths about the undocumented student community in a submission to the Daily Bruin in November 2001. 
(Daily Bruin file photo)

Elizabeth Delgado and Vanessa Portillo deconstructed myths about the undocumented student community in a submission to the Daily Bruin in November 2001. (Daily Bruin file photo)


I tend to avoid talking about anything so complicated it demands reading more than one Wikipedia entry to understand.

This includes, of course, undocumented immigrants’ issues, which are entrenched in a history of criminalization, exploitation and – the unifying factor – endless bureaucracy.

On Nov. 13, 2001, the Daily Bruin ran a submission co-written by Elizabeth Delgado and Vanessa Portillo in which the pair broke down a set of myths and realities about undocumented students at the University. They clarified for students that the path to citizenship is a lot more difficult and complicated than filling out a form, as well as the fact that undocumented immigrants do in fact contribute to tax revenue and do not necessarily have the resources to pay out-of-state tuition.

Earlier that year, the state legislature granted undocumented students access to in-state tuition at California community colleges and California State Universities with the approval of AB 540, an unprecedented measure that was later challenged in the California Supreme Court. The University of California was strangely absent from the bill’s text.

Delgado and Portillo argued that the UC Regents should adopt the bill’s requirements to show its commitment to accessibility and help enrich the study body’s diversity.

The two reasoned, “As students at UCLA, we should transform UCLA into the public university it is supposed to be – one that serves all of the public by ensuring that its doors remain open to all members of all communities, that its curriculum is relevant to the concerns of all communities and that its policies and governance are democratic and egalitarian.”

A year earlier, Francisco Valdez wrote a response to a letter published in the Daily Bruin, which copy editors neatly summarized with the headline “Don’t embrace illegal immigrants.” Valdez argued that assuming immigrants could simply apply to be legal citizens was ignorant of potential issues, such as fulfilling the application’s requirement and waiting for it to be processed.

“This faith in bureaucracy is so quaintly American. It’s almost charming in its naivete,” he said.

And it’s true.

Throughout decades of stalled immigration reform, American politicians on every level of government have cobbled together resources and restrictions to fit how any individual legislature believes it should interact with undocumented individuals.

And the UC is no different. In the absence of direction, the University has dragged its feet in being more inclusive of undocumented students. While the UC Board of Regents passed a modified version of AB 540 in January 2002, other initiatives have gone the way of immigration reform and been put on hold.

Students assembled outside UC President Janet Napolitano’s office last month to protest her failure to follow through on a promise to increase student representation on the President’s Advisory Council on Undocumented Students.

Napolitano has struggled to reconcile her long-standing reputation as “deporter in chief” with undocumented students, a consequence of the record number of deportations under her leadership at the Department of Homeland Security.

The UC offered to increase student representation on the council in May, after students walked out during Napolitano’s speech at a summit intended to begin repairing this relationship.

Since then, student representation within the University remains as likely as immigration reform in the United States. In lieu of that representation, the UC has decided to compensate the undocumented student community with a $5 million lump sum to improve resources.

It’s unclear whether the money’s simply as much as the UC’s budget allows, or if anyone took the time to consider how it can be allocated beforehand, but that’s just one those things we’ll never know. As always with faceless bureaucracies, it’s hard to tell if anyone’s listening.

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Catherine Liberty Feliciano was a news reporter and a staff representative on the Daily Bruin Editorial Board. She wrote stories about Westwood, research and student life. She dabbled in video journalism and frequently wrote #ThrowbackThursday blogs. Feliciano was an assistant Opinion editor in the 2015-2016 school year.


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  • DonHonda

    NOTE: The UC, CSU, and CACC duty is to California Residents first. It is against current US Immigration Code for higher educationat institutions to let Illegal Aliens matriculate.

    On the same note: Some UCs are building centers and hiring staff to service ONLY Illegal Alien Students. This is against the “Separate but Equal” legal doctrine that is the basis of US education that has long been fought for.

  • Vince Tagliano

    “They clarified for students that the path to citizenship is a lot more difficult and complicated than filling out a form”

    Same goes for admission to the UC System or any decent university or college. Yeah, life is hard and not everyone gets or deserves a gold star. And everyone doesn’t get to come to the US just because they want to or because they misinterpreted the words by Emma Lazarus – it’s a poem, not a law.