University of California Suspends Plan That Would Allow Hiring of Undocumented Students

The UC regents approved a yearlong pause on implementing a plan that would allow campuses to hire undocumented students.
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Published on January 31, 2024
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  • UC regents voted on a one-year pause to a plan that would allow undocumented students to work on campus.
  • Undocumented students are unable to hold campus jobs due to federal law.
  • There are an estimated 4,000 undocumented students across the UC system.

The University of California (UC) system will temporarily suspend a plan that would allow undocumented students to work on campus, according to a statement from UC President Michael V. Drake.

The decision comes after a closed-door meeting where the UC regents voted to pause implementing Regents Policy 4407 for one year. The policy, which was passed in May 2023, created a working group to determine a way for all students to have the option of university employment, regardless of immigration status.

"We have concluded that the proposed legal pathway is not viable at this time, and in fact carries significant risk for the institution and for those we serve. For that reason, it is inadvisable for the University to initiate implementation right now," Drake said in a statement.

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).

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.

In California, undocumented students are granted in-state status for financial aid and tuition purposes. However, the estimated 4,000 undocumented students across the UC system cannot hold on-campus jobs, including fellowship and residency positions required for certain majors.

Biden Administration Opposes UC Plan

One reason for the pause may be pressure from the Biden administration. Politico last week reported that the administration opposes the plan and has warned UC that they might be forced to sue or take administrative action blocking the effort if the proposal was approved — all during an election year.

Drake in his statement said that UC is "continuing to explore our options," but he also said the regents had a responsibility to protect the university, its employees, students, and their families.

One option the university is exploring is expanding experiential learning programs modeled after the California College Corps, a statewide program that allows students to earn money toward their college degree by serving their community.

"As new information becomes available, we will evaluate that information, and if appropriate, move ahead," Drake said. "We will be guided by the same principle we have held from the beginning of this process: supporting our students in a safe and effective manner as they continue their educational journey."