(The Hill) — The University of California (UC) system is moving toward hiring undocumented students for student-employment positions despite a federal law banning the practice.
UC President Michael Drake and Board of Regents Chair Richard Leib said in a statement on Thursday that the board has appointed a working group that will consider relevant issues to ensuring all students have employment opportunities regardless of immigration status. The group will develop an implementation plan and legal strategy by November and whether, how and when to take the next steps.
“The University is committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of their immigration status, can pursue and attain a world-class UC education,” they said. “This should include providing enriching student employment opportunities to all students.”
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 established civil and criminal penalties for employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and those not authorized to work in the United States.
But the Los Angeles Times reported that UCLA legal scholars have developed a theory that the law does not specifically apply to states and state entities like UC.
Regent John Perez told the outlet that UC will need time to figure out how to implement its plan, saying, “This is too important to get wrong.”
But the university could face legal action over its plan and has been considering any potential public backlash it would receive and the legal risk for faculty and staff who hire the students.
Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) wrote a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) earlier this week to warn against the plan, arguing that the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that federal immigration law tops state or local laws. He said the plan could cause UC to lose federal funding and hurt its students.
About 44,000 students who do not have protections from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals attend college in California, and about 4,000 attend UC, the Times reported.