As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether to stop protecting some undocumented immigrants from deportation, the University of California is preparing to support immigrant students, regardless of the outcome, according to UC President Janet Napolitano.
UC was one of the key plaintiffs in a case heard Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which currently provides temporary protection from deportation and permission to work for about 660,000 people who came to the U.S. as children, according to the most recent data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Just over 200,000 DACA recipients live in California, by far the largest number of any state, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
If DACA is ended, recipients will be subject to deportation and will lose their ability to work when their status expires.
Napolitano said in a press conference after Tuesday’s oral arguments that the university will continue to offer mental health services and legal services for undocumented students, but may also need to go further to help students stay in school after they lose their DACA status, since they will no longer be able to work to support themselves.
“I think we would need to be able to raise private funds to help fill the gap financially for these students if they do lose their DACA status,” she said.
University officials would not elaborate further on plans to support students if DACA is ended.
— CHIRLA (@CHIRLA) November 12, 2019
After the Trump administration announced a decision to end the protection in 2017, the University of California and the state of California both sued to keep it in place, in addition to several other plaintiffs who filed separate lawsuits. Several lower courts have upheld the lawsuits and they were eventually appealed to the Supreme Court, where they were consolidated. A final decision is expected by June 2020.
“The program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court,” wrote President Trump in announcing his decision to end DACA protections. “There can be no path to principled immigration reform if the executive branch is able to rewrite or nullify federal laws at will.”
There are an estimated 4,000 undocumented students enrolled in the 10-campus UC system, about 9,500 at California State University’s 23 campuses and about 50,000 to 70,000 in the state’s 115 community colleges. About half of those students are estimated to have DACA status.
“They’re in our undergraduate student population, some are in our medical schools and our law schools, some have graduated and are now serving as nurses, as teachers, as business owners throughout the economy of California,” Napolitano said Tuesday. “And to remove their DACA protection in the way the Trump administration has attempted to do and to make them subject to eviction from the only country they know as home is not only not legally required but it is inconsistent with good immigration policy and inconsistent with our values as a country.”
Dozens of DACA recipients and supporters from all over the country, including many from California, camped out overnight outside the Supreme Court hoping to get into the hearing Tuesday morning.
— Josh Dorner (@JoshDorner) November 12, 2019
The plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case also included some DACA recipients from California, including Jirayut Latthivongskorn, a graduate of UC Berkeley, Harvard University and UC San Francisco School of Medicine, and Miriam González Ávila, a middle school teacher from Los Angeles.
González Ávila is one of an estimated 4,000 teachers in California with DACA status, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The president of the California Teachers’ Association, E. Toby Boyd, said in a statement that ending DACA would hurt both students and teachers in the state.
“It will rob our school districts of qualified educators, who have taught and trained every generation of trailblazers,” the statement read. “DACA is essential to keep our classrooms afloat.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he was proud to stand with UC officials in the Supreme Court to fight for DACA.
“In America you learn there is a right way to do things and there is a wrong way to do things,” Becerra said. “We grow up learning that from our parents and when we get to school, when we go about our business — there is a right way and a wrong way. And what came forward in this argument today is that the federal government did it the wrong way in terminating DACA.”