Biden Officials Resisted UC's Undocumented Student Hiring

UC Faces Legal Hurdle in Employment Plan for Students

by Zain ul Abedin
Biden Officials Resisted UC's Undocumented Student Hiring
© Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

In a significant development, the Biden administration has discreetly opposed the University of California's (UC) initiative to permit thousands of young people lacking legal immigration status to undertake campus employment.

This response marks a notable divergence in the administration's approach to immigration, particularly during an election year. The controversy centers on the UC's proposal, slated for review by the Board of Regents, that challenges a 1986 federal law which prohibits employment for individuals without immigration status.

This proposal aims to carve out an exception for those typically brought to the U.S. as children, aligning with the principles of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Approximately 4,000 students stand to benefit from this change, igniting a complex debate involving legal, political, and ethical considerations.

UC Regent José Hernández, a former astronaut and supporter of the measure, emphasizes the importance of equal experiential learning opportunities for all UC students. This sentiment is echoed by pro-immigrant activists, who are intensifying their efforts in light of potential political shifts and the looming threat of a Trump reelection.

DHS Challenges UC Proposal

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed concerns over the violation of federal law, hinting at possible legal actions against the university if the proposal is greenlit. This stance has added a layer of complexity to the deliberations within the UC, with Board members and officials like UC President Michael V.

Drake contemplating the timing and implications of such a decision. Despite legal opinions from eminent scholars across the UC and Ivy League universities arguing in favor of the university's authority to hire these students, the legal landscape remains uncertain.

Outside legal opinions have cast doubt on the feasibility of this approach, contributing to the reservations among the UC leadership.

UC Weighs Alternatives

The UC's response to this situation involves a careful consideration of the risks involved, not just for the institution but also for the undocumented students and their families.

Alternative support mechanisms, such as additional financial aid or reclassifying jobs as fellowships, are being explored. However, these alternatives are viewed by many students as insufficient and unequal. As the debate continues, the UC leadership and the Board of Regents face a delicate balancing act.

They must navigate the intricate legal and political terrain while upholding their commitment to equal opportunity and considering the potential consequences for the university and its undocumented student population. This ongoing saga reflects the broader national conversation on immigration and education, highlighting the complexities and sensitivities involved in policymaking in these areas.

The UC's decision, whether to uphold or modify its stance, will likely have far-reaching implications, resonating beyond the confines of its campuses.