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Students call on UC to increase opportunities for students without legal status

Students, faculty and union members gathered outside the Luskin Conference Center to call for the UC to allow the hiring of students without legal resident status on Wednesday. (Ethan Manafi/Daily Bruin staff)

By Catherine Hamilton

Jan. 18, 2023 10:06 p.m.

Students and faculty gathered outside the University of California Board of Regents meetings Wednesday to call for the Board to increase employment opportunities for students without legal resident status.

The first regents meeting of the day was held at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center. During this meeting, 14 students working with the Opportunity for All campaign called for the Board to allow the UC to hire students without legal resident status, said Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center.

The campaign launched in October with support from legal scholars and labor advocates. It argues the UC can legally provide students without legal resident status job opportunities, such as on-campus internships and research positions, which they are currently not allowed to occupy, said Jeffry Umaña Muñoz, a co-chair of Improving Dreams Equity Access and Success, an organization for students without legal status.

The UC can legally allow employment of students without legal resident status, though they have currently chosen not to hire these students due to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, Wong said. The campaign has since amassed more than 3,000 signatures and support from more than 29 immigration constitutional scholars, including the deans of UC Berkeley and UC Davis law schools, added Umaña Muñoz, a third-year Chicana and Chicano studies and labor studies student.

[Related: UCLA community calls on UC to allow hiring of students without legal status]

Several students and campaign leaders gave speeches regarding the campaign and why the Regents should support them.

“The UC Regents today can stand on the right side of history,” Wong said in a speech at the rally. “They can set precedent to not only enrich the lives of undocumented students, their families and their communities, but indeed, enrich the University as a whole.”

Another speaker, education graduate student Melissa Palacios, said in her speech that she has been offered a teaching position, seen her contract and met her prospective students, but cannot take the job because of the UC’s current employment regulations.

Future students will also face this issue, as many are not legally protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which grants temporary protection from deportation and a pathway to legal status, added Palacios, an IDEAS board member.

Rafael Jaime, president of the United Auto Workers Local 2865 union, said in a speech that as the son of immigrants without legal resident status, he hopes someday the UAW union – which represents around 48,000 UC academic workers – will be able to represent students without legal status.

“If UC wishes to fulfill its mission to expand diversity, equity and inclusion, then it needs to put weight behind its words and support undocumented students by making good paying union jobs accessible to them,” he said. “Our fight has always been about who gets to participate at the University of California.”

Umaña Muñoz said the campaign also needs support from United States citizens and international students, as they are fighting for an equal chance in educational and employment opportunities.

Kathryn Lybarger, president of Local 3299 – a union that represents UC patient care and service workers – said she supports the Opportunity for All campaign and wants them to be heard by the regents. She added she was also present to call on the University to divest funds from Blackstone, a private investment banking company that unions claim will worsen the California housing crisis.

Members of the campaign have spoken with regents and California state legislators who support their proposal, Wong said, adding that the Latino Caucus of the California State Legislature endorsed their efforts. The campaign’s victories and achievements are led by students without legal resident status, and it is time for the UC to start hiring them, he added.

“I currently have a job offer as well with the UCLA Labor Center that I cannot take, even though it would pay my rent, pay my tuition and keep my family and I financially afloat,” Umaña Muñoz said. “This campaign means everything to me because it’s the difference between staying at the university, graduating and being successful (or) losing everything that I was promised by the University of California.”

Contributing reports by Constanza Montemayor, news editor.

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Catherine Hamilton | National news and higher education editor
Hamilton is the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor. She was previously a national news contributor. She is also a second-year English and political science student.
Hamilton is the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor. She was previously a national news contributor. She is also a second-year English and political science student.
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