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Saturday, April 20, 2024

California law shields undocumented immigrants; UC Davis leaders, students voice support


Minimal changes anticipated at UC level

On Thursday, Oct. 5, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 54 into law, granting some protection to California’s undocumented immigrant population.

“[SB 54 will] prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes,” the bill states.

SB 54 will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. Across the University of California (UC) system, campus police already limit the extent to which they comply with federal immigration policies, due to UC President Janet Napolitano’s pledge in November 2016 that individuals would not be detained, questioned or arrested “solely on the basis of (suspected) undocumented immigration status.”

In addition to the UC’s pledge of continuing support and protections for undocumented students, the city of Davis is a sanctuary city. Due to the policies already in place at both the university and local levels, both UC Davis Chancellor Gary May and ASUCD President Josh Dalavai said they do not expect to see any immediate changes once the bill takes effect.

“We’ll do what the bill indicates best,” May said. “Our law enforcement folks will not have to cooperate with federal enforcement, unless we are talking about a criminal situation. In general, we’ll continue to support and protect the undocumented people that are within our jurisdiction.”

May said he hopes the signing of SB 54 will provide undocumented students a sense of comfort.

“I think it gives them some sense that they are supported within the state of California,” May said. “Hopefully, that will keep them confident and using the various public systems within the city and the state without fear of identifying themselves and having the [threat] of being deported.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 4, the 10 UC chancellors met in Oakland, where they discussed their commitment to supporting DACA students. After Brown’s signing of SB 54 the following day, Napolitano drafted a letter in response to the bill, which was then circulated among the 10 chancellors for review. A statement from the UC Office of the President is scheduled to be released on Oct. 16.

Second-year neurology, physiology and behavior major Enrique Lopez, who is an undocumented student, said he appreciates the statements made by UC administrators thus far in support of undocumented students. Lopez emphasized the importance of SB 54 becoming law, stating that he believes it will provide a sense of stability for undocumented individuals in California.

“The bill is trying to do three big things — one of them is [to] improve confidentiality so people are not feeling unsafe when they go to the DMV or they go to schools,” Lopez said. “It’s going to prohibit the allocation of local funding to communicate with ICE or immigration authorities, which is also really good. [And] it’s going to [prohibit] public schools and hospitals […] from communicating with immigration authorities. These three [points] are connected [in] making undocumented people feel safe, wherever they are — in schools, hospitals [or] reaching out for police help.”

Lopez serves as the chair of the ASUCD DREAM Committee, which works closely with the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center to advocate for undocumented students. This year, the DREAM Committee received its first budget from ASUCD. Lopez said having resources on campus specifically for undocumented students has been helpful for him, especially at the current political moment.

“Regarding [the] DACA repeal, […] it makes me feel unrepresented and really out of place,” Lopez said. “But thanks to groups like the AB540 Center and the DREAM Committee, […] I feel way more safe, and I’ve learned a lot. It has helped me, and I’m sure it helped others feel more welcome [and] more safe.”

Both Dalavai and ASUCD Vice President Adilla Jamaludin emphasized their dedication to addressing the needs of undocumented students.

“If there’s one declarative statement we can make, it’s that […] it’s a firm belief of the ASUCD Executive Office that [undocumented individuals] are great people that have just been horribly and unfairly targeted and whose everyday lives are being affected by bigotry,” Dalavai said. “We’re very committed to helping undocumented students however we can.”


Written by: Hannah Holzer — campus@theaggie.org


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