New President Meets With Students in Sacramento to Discuss Needs and Interests of Undocumented Members of the UC Community.
The Statewide Multicultural Student Coalition of UC students, a coalition of undocumented student advocates, met with newly-elected UC President Janet Napolitano to address concerns regarding undocumented student safety within the UC system.
Since Napolitano’s election to the UC presidency this past July, many concerns have been raised by students due to immigration policies set during her tenure as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. Programs such as Secure Communities — an immigration-enforcement program that detects undocumented immigrants via fingerprints taken by local police — have become the subject of debate among many undocumented students and their respective allies within the UC system.
According to UC Irvine student and undocumented-student advocate Andrea Gordillo, who wrote the letter announcing the Statewide Multicultural Student Coalition’s meeting with Napolitano, the coalition is actively seeking assurance regarding the safety and wellbeing of undocumented students and families.
“We expressed the urgency of taking action and being an ally to undocumented students,” Gordillo said in an email. “We hoped for concrete answers and tangible solutions, but only received promises to look into the proposals.”
According to Gordillo, the coalition is “cautiously optimistic” about Napolitano’s plans, and the organization plans on conducting a follow-up with the president’s staff to ensure their demands are met and implemented.
However, Gordillo said the coalition expressed gratitude toward Napolitano’s promise to adhere to the California Trust Act, which restricts local police from detaining undocumented immigrants who have no record of serious criminal activity.
“Although we recognize this will not erase the pain, trauma and damage caused by Secure Communities, which Napolitano executed,” Gordillo said, “our most time-sensitive request was for her to publicly express her support for the CA Trust Act.”
Associated Students External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Alex Choate said Napolitano has promised to make UC schools a “sanctuary” for undocumented students, meaning no state funds will be used to contact Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if a student is found to be undocumented.
“That demand is something I hope she follows up with,” Choate said. “I hope she listens to student voices ordering her to make students feel safe within the UC system.”
According to Linda Gonzalez, co-chair of UCSB Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success (IDEAS) — an organization for undocumented students — Napolitano has done a satisfactory job by meeting with students, although she has yet to prove herself fully in the UC arena.
“As an ally, I feel that the meeting was done out of good diplomacy on behalf of Napolitano,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t feel she has done enough to win the trust of her undocumented student community. I really hope this upcoming year she acknowledges she needs to win our trust.”
Gonzalez, a third-year political science major, also said she and other undocumented student advocates on campus would like to see Napolitano reach out to the undergraduates of the UC by hosting meetings in Southern California, instead of solely at UC San Francisco or other locations in the Bay Area.
“I’d like to see more transparency,” Gonzalez said. “I’d like to see her hold meetings at UCLA where more undergrad students can reach out to her, because as of now, it’s really inaccessible for a lot of us at UCSB, UCSD, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC Merced.”
Amidst the controversy surrounding the new president of the largest American public university system, some students see Napolitano’s already highly-scrutinized presidency as an interesting point in the University’s history.
“It’s only been two days so far, but it’ll be interesting to see what she does in next few weeks,” Choate said.
This article appeared on page 3 of Thursday October 3, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.