University of California System to Protect Students vs. Illegal Immigration

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University of California System to Protect Students vs. Illegal Immigration
Bernadine Racoma

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who is currently the head of the public university system in California is preparing to protect foreign students in all 10 campuses of University of California. In a statement released on Wednesday, Napolitano said that the higher education system under her jurisdiction will not implement any illegal immigration law.

She added that while it is still unclear what practices and policies the incoming federal administration will implement, she wants to re-state UC’s conviction to allow all members of the university system’s community to exercise their right to live, study and work safely without any fear, university-wide. This is in view of the campaign pronouncements of president-elect Donald Trump regarding illegal immigrants.


In the written directive released by the office of Janet Napolitano, new principles state the protection of all students enrolled at the 10 campuses of University of California who are residing in the United States illegally. Dianne Klein, the UC spokeswoman said that the University will not break the law. The police departments within the university system will not join the immigration operations that other police agencies may conduct.

Federal law states that law enforcement agencies, which also include the police force within campuses, should notify the federal authorities if they detain an individual whom they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.  While the law exists, it’s being defied by churches, colleges and cities across the U.S. It did not become a big issue under Obama’s administration. However, Trump has threatened to cut off federal funding to cities that are considered sanctuaries for illegal immigrants.

According to the new policies issued by Napolitano, UC will still continue admitting illegal immigrants under the same measures as permanent residents or U.S. citizens.

Existing regulations

Schools, including colleges and universities are considered “sensitive locations” by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They are not going to act in these places unless there are demanding circumstances – threat to national security, for example. An ICE official confirmed that they do not carry on enforcement on school campuses unless absolutely necessary. Moreover, they have to seek prior approval from the right official.

Pre-emptive measure

Although the policies already exist, there are speculations that things will change when Trump assumes office because he said he’s going to put a stop to illegal immigration. Some authorities see Napolitano’s directive as a pre-emptive measure.

The Center for Immigration Studies policy studies director, Jessica Vaughan, commented that Napolitano’s move is political, making it look like UC is making a stand against what Trump may do to students who do not have legal status yet in the near future. She thinks that it poses problems, because it equates to obstruction of the enforcement of the law.

Moreover, it is a federal law that UC will be violating, which can put some people at risk. The university has established Centers for Undocumented Students at their campuses at Los Angeles, Irvine, Davis and Berkeley and the policies that are in effect are the same as that governing states that provide sanctuaries for illegal immigrants.

In California, there is a law staring that minors in the state who do not possess immigration documentation may still enroll in public grade schools. It they pass the same academic requisites like other U.S. citizens, they will be allowed to enroll in public universities and pay in-state tuition, which is much lower.

Janet Napolitano announced in May 2016 that the University of California will set aside $8.4 million per year up to the 2018-2019 academic year to support undocumented students studying at its 10 campuses.

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