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Friday, April 19, 2024

Undocumented students deserve the right to work

The UC Board of Regents needs to be more transparent about its decision on allowing undocumented students on-campus jobs

 

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

 

On Jan. 25, the UC Board of Regents deferred their decision on whether to allow students who are undocumented immigrants to hold on-campus jobs. The decision comes as a follow-up to a meeting last May, when regents unanimously agreed to create a pathway to hire undocumented students. 

This inaction from the regents not only robs students of the right to work but contradicts the board’s previous statement. The Editorial Board stands with the 4,000+ undocumented students across all UC campuses who are affected by this inaction. All students should be able to gain experience with on-campus jobs and have a safe college experience.

The regents’ decision was reportedly made because the board found that allowing undocumented students to work on campus could cause “significant risk” to them and the university as a whole. In the regents’ statement on the meeting, UC President Michael Drake explained that these students could be at increased risk of deportation and federal prosecution. 

While these concerns may be legitimate, the UC needs to be transparent about this process while they continue working to find alternative and safe solutions for undocumented students to have the same opportunities other students do. 

College is expensive — having the ability to work an on-campus job can make a major difference in a student’s experience. At a research university, being able to work in a lab or contribute to an on-campus research project can drastically improve a person’s career prospects. Undocumented students should have the same access to these resources that other students have. 

The original goal of the regents was a response to a legal theory that stated institutions like the UC would not be prohibited from any federal law regarding the work status of undocumented residents. Ahilan Arulanantham, UCLA co-director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy, was one of the people who presented this theory to the board in May. Recently, Arulanantham told the LA Times that outside legal experts have assessed the situation and said the risk would be “minor.” 

With Arulanantham arguing that the legal theory proposed by their department has shown that the university system has the right to employ undocumented students, the UC needs to be transparent about where exactly their legal interpretations are at odds. 

The need for clearer details is especially important considering the dissent from some members of the board. According to an LA Times interview, Regent John Pérez said he’s never been “more disappointed” with the board. The regents only voted to shelve the issue with a 10 to 6 majority, with one regent voting to abstain. 

Before a 2021 court ruling, undocumented students once had the ability under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to more easily obtain work permits. Now, as less and less students have DACA benefits, institutions have a responsibility to come up with new ways to protect undocumented students’ right to work. 

While the regents have stated that they are committed to exploring more options, it’s important to consider how timely this issue is. Students typically only attend their university for two to four years, so by the time the regents come to another decision, it will be too late for many students to be employed and gain the financial support and resume experience they need.

The UC system sets precedence not only for education in the state of California but leads the way nationally. As the regents represent the university and academics, it’s important that we not only abide by set standards but explore new creative ways to protect the civil rights of students. 

 

Written by: The Editorial Board

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