Proposed Bill Would Allow California Public Colleges and Universities to Hire Undocumented Students

The legislation would provide equal access to campus employment opportunities for all students, regardless of their immigration status, across all state colleges and universities.
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Published on February 22, 2024
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  • The bill would instruct public colleges and universities in the state to open employment opportunities to all students, regardless of immigration status.
  • Undocumented students are currently unable to hold campus jobs due to federal law.
  • There are an estimated 83,000 undocumented college students in California.

A proposed bill in California would allow public higher education institutions in the state to hire undocumented students.

Assemblymember David Alvarez, D-San Diego, introduced the legislation, which would bar the University of California (UC), California State University, and California Community College systems from denying a student employment on the sole basis that they could not provide proof of federal work authorization.

There are an estimated 83,000 undocumented postsecondary students in California, according to the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and the American Immigration Council.

While undocumented students are granted in-state status for financial aid and tuition purposes, they cannot apply for student employment opportunities, including graduate student research and teaching assistant positions, along with medical residency, due to their immigration status.

America has always promised that if you work hard, you will have the opportunity to succeed, Alvarez said in a press release. These students have fulfilled their obligation and are ready to be our future teachers, scientists, doctors, and public servants. This bill will provide them with the opportunity to work. Creating these pathways to secure employment is essential.

State Sen. María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, and Senate Majority Leader Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, also support the legislation.

Students attending UC campuses, state universities, and community colleges should have equal access to employment and other opportunities just like every other student, regardless of their immigration status, Durazo said in the release.

The bill proposal comes just weeks after UC temporarily suspended a plan that would allow undocumented students to work on campus.

The plan would have challenged a 1986 federal law prohibiting people without immigration status from legally working, according to Politico. UC sought to find a way around the federal law for students, many of whom were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children and would have previously been qualified to work under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The proposed state legislation treats the prohibition in federal law as inapplicable because it does not state that it applies to any branch of state government, according to the bill's text.

Since 2021, legal challenges have prevented the DACA program from accepting new applicants. Under DACA, undocumented students were allowed to work, including at on-campus jobs.