Ever since the election of America’s most anti-immigrant president since Woodrow Wilson, some have gone to great lengths to use Donald Trump to mask their own racial blind spots.
For example, the University of California has sued the Trump administration over its Muslim ban and filed legal briefs in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. UC President Janet Napolitano recently referred to the policy of ripping children of asylum seekers from their parents and throwing them in the equivalent of baby jails as a “misallocation” of resources.
If Napolitano and the UC are sincere in these views, why is the University spending tens of millions of public dollars on the same low-wage, outsourcing companies that are helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement implement Trump’s morally bankrupt “zero tolerance” policy?
It’s no secret the UC outsources jobs to ICE collaborators for the same reason that ICE does. It wants to cut costs – in other words, pay its workers less. And, as a recent report by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents the majority of the UC’s employees notes the workers most adversely affected by such efforts are women, African-Americans and immigrants at the bottom of the income scale.
In other words, the UC is effectively creating more inequality through these outsourcing practices.
Between 1996 and 2015, the UC saw a 37 percent drop in the black share of its service workforce. This happened even as surveys showed these same workers becoming more likely to be employed by outsourcing companies contracted by the UC to deliver the same work for lower wages. The savings over this period helped the UC to raise the pay of its primarily white administrators by 64 percent between 2005 and 2015.
ICE holds contracts with many of the same companies.
And for the workers, it’s not just about lower wages – it’s about fewer benefits, more safety problems and a higher risk of abusive practices like wage theft. Not surprisingly, each of these are problems documented among outsourced UC workers in recent years.
It is truly a vicious cycle to replace what were once ladders to the middle class for people of color at the UC with outsourced jobs that pay lower wages. These outsourcing companies enrich themselves by not only securing multimillion dollar outsourcing contracts from UC, but by also helping Trump implement his openly racist and patently un-American immigration agenda.
While the moral outrages of the Trump administration seem to know no limit, this should not be the case for California’s leading public institutions – and the purchasing power they wield.
If Napolitano really cares about the “misallocation” of public resources on a policy of ripping families apart, she would cancel every UC contract with companies that profit from the practice – and she would do it immediately.
Until she does, though, her “do as I say – not as I do” approach to Trump’s ICE collaborators will only cement her legacy as an enabler of injustice.
Lybarger is the president of AFSCME Local 3299, the union which represents the UC’s service workers.