University System Pausing Undocumented Students Hiring Plan

( – The University of California (UC) Board of Regents, on Thursday, January 25, voted to postpone a plan that would have permitted undocumented students to hold campus jobs. The decision, influenced by legal concerns and objections from the Biden administration, has left approximately 4,000 students across the ten-campus system in limbo, unable to access paid fellowships, residencies, and other on-campus employment opportunities crucial for their academic pursuit.

UC President Michael V. Drake expressed doubts about the plan’s legal viability, stating that the university had concluded that the proposed legal pathway needs to be more viable and carry significant risks for the institution and its constituents. Additionally, he pledged that the university would explore alternative support options, including expanding experiential learning programs.

The affected students, often referred to as “Dreamers” – young individuals brought to the U.S. as children who remain undocumented – already qualify for in-state tuition. Many rely on work opportunities to finance their education but face legal obstacles due to stalled renewals of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The decision to delay the plan followed months of internal debate and external pressure. While activists and legal scholars argued that the university could hire undocumented students without violating federal law, concerns arose about potential lawsuits and intervention from the Department of Homeland Security.

UC Regent John Pérez, a champion of the plan, expressed dismay, stating that he wished he wasn’t surprised. He further criticized the delay, highlighting the financial hardship it would inflict on students who depend on-campus jobs for basic necessities.

The Board’s decision sparked protests from student activists who chanted slogans demanding that the university hire undocumented students. At one point, the meeting room was cleared to allow for continued discussions.

Meanwhile, legal scholars from the UC, Ivy League, and other institutions argue that the university can legally employ students. They assert that the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act prohibits unauthorized employment and does not apply to states.

However, this theory remains untested thus far. Three external legal opinions sought by the UC Office of the President have raised doubts about this idea, contributing to concerns within the leadership of the ten-campus system, as reported by a senior leader who has reviewed the analyses.

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