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Hundreds of students call for UC to implement undocumented student hiring plan

Supporters of the Opportunity for All campaign rally outside of Kerckhoff Hall on Tuesday afternoon. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

By Alexandra Kaiser and Shaanth Kodialam

Nov. 14, 2023 5:54 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 15 at 12:39 a.m.

Hundreds of students marched from Wilson Plaza to Murphy Hall and Kerckhoff Hall calling for the UC Board of Regents to finalize an implementation plan that would allow the UC to hire all students regardless of their immigration status.

The rally comes a year after the Undocumented Student-Led Network – a coalition of legal scholars and student organizers without legal status – launched the systemwide Opportunity for All campaign that demands the UC allow undocumented students to apply for on-campus jobs, citing a new legal theory backed by a broad swath of UC legal scholars that argues federal immigration law does not bar state entities from hiring individuals without legal status.

[Related: Student rally calls for UC to hire students without legal status, fair union wages]

The regents signaled their support by voting in May to explore a pathway to implement those demands, following an outpour of public support and rallies on UCLA’s campus led by the Opportunity for All campaign. In their decision, the regents set a deadline of Nov. 30 for a working group to complete its assessment of the potential policy. The regents are expected to speak about their deliberations publicly at UCLA on Thursday, said Ryan King, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, in an emailed statement. 

[Related: UC Board of Regents votes to explore employment for students without legal status]

Chanting slogans such as “Unstoppable, undeniable, undocumented and unafraid,” “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” and “Up, up with liberation, down, down with deportation,” organizers and their supporters – dressed in indigo T-shirts – said they want a plan that could be put into practice as early as Nov. 30. Students from various UC campuses, including Davis, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, traveled to join with campus organizers for the UCLA rally.

Speakers at the rally pointed to aligning public actions at UC campuses in Merced, San Diego and San Francisco this week as the regents meeting approaches. The move would make the University the first in the nation to allow thousands of undergraduate and graduate students without legal status to apply for on-campus positions, such as dining hall staff, teaching assistants or research internships.

“Undocumented students can enroll and apply for (the) UC system, but when they get accepted, they no longer can work and support themselves and their families,” Ju Hong, director of the UCLA Dream Resource Center, said Wednesday at an Opportunity for All teach-in at the Fowler Museum. 

Hong disrupted a 2013 rally held by Barack Obama, calling on the then-president to implement a plan to prevent the deportation of over 10 million families without legal status. Faculty organizers at the teach-in credited Hong’s advocacy for spurring a national conversation about the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which previously provided temporary work authorizations to some immigrants without legal status. 

Opportunity for All supporters said its advocacy builds on DACA, arguing that the program does not cover many current college students and urging the regents to provide a new pathway that could set a precedent across the country. New applications for DACA have been paused following multiple court decisions, most recently by a Texas federal judge in September. 

“We hear a lot about right now that we’re in implementation phase,” Jeffry Umaña Muñoz, an organizer with the campaign and fourth-year Chicana/o and Central American studies and labor studies student, said at the rally. “We hear a lot about the legal theory, a lot about ways to do it. But we often forget to remember that at the core of this campaign are student lives.”

Protestors also walked up Janss Steps and toward Murphy Hall, chanting, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go,” “Michael Drake, shame on you, if your mother only knew,” and “Gene Block, do the right thing,” calling upon the UC president and UCLA chancellor to guarantee a quick implementation of their demands. 

Attendees at the rally hear from labor rights scholars backing the Opportunity for All campaign. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

The Opportunity for All campaign provided the UC with ideas and concrete steps for implementation plans, but it is now up to the UC to put it in action, Umaña Muñoz said. 

“We have done everything in our power to be proactive, to give them the tools that they need to work with us in partnership to be able to get this policy off the ground,” Umaña Muñoz said. “UC must approach us in good faith as well and must engage us in the process, must center our priorities first, and must do everything to be just as brave and courageous as undocumented students have been for so long.”

The rally ended outside Kerckhoff Hall with speeches from student organizers who shared their personal experiences with struggling to pay their bills, put food on the table and make rent. Speakers said their plan is a blueprint for the nation, and they expect other systems such as California State University and California Community Colleges to follow suit. 

Silvia Rodriguez, a fourth-year sociology and Spanish student who traveled from UC Davis, said in an interview that she feels the regents have stalled on meeting advocates’ demands. The stakes are high for her, she said, adding that she has struggled to pay rent and make ends meet as an undergraduate student. 

“We really need that protection, that security blanket for our students,” said Rodriguez, who is also an organizer with the Undocumented Student-Led Network who does not qualify for DACA. “It’s not a really sustainable environment for undocumented students at their colleges.”

King said in the emailed statement that the UC values student input on matters of importance to the University. King did not answer questions about whether the working group has consulted student organizers but said the working group has continued dialogue on the matter. 

Before discussing their findings publicly, the regents are set to discuss the legal implications for their plan at an upcoming closed-session board meeting at the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center on Thursday morning. 

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Alexandra Kaiser | Campus politics editor
Kaiser is the 2022-2023 campus politics editor. She was previously a News reporter and Opinion columnist. She is also a third-year communication and political science student.
Kaiser is the 2022-2023 campus politics editor. She was previously a News reporter and Opinion columnist. She is also a third-year communication and political science student.
Shaanth Kodialam | News senior staff
Kodialam is a News senior staff reporter for the Bruin. They were previously the 2022-2023 features and student life editor and a 2021-2022 News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a third-year communication and geography student.
Kodialam is a News senior staff reporter for the Bruin. They were previously the 2022-2023 features and student life editor and a 2021-2022 News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a third-year communication and geography student.
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