Undocumented University of California student organizers and UC Los Angeles immigration law experts are spearheading the Opportunity for All Campaign, advocating for the University of California to hire undocumented students on all nine campuses.

Esme Puzio / Daily Nexus

The campaign launched in October 2022, following a final Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ruling that prohibited new applications from being processed.

The campaign is led by the Undocumented Student-Led Network — a coalition of undocumented students across the UC system — with support from professors from UCLA School of Law’s Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) and the UCLA Labor Center.

CILP is arguing that the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) — which bars undocumented immigrants without work permits from legal employment — does not apply to certain state entities, including the UC.

“CILP’s analysis shows that because the University of California is an arm of the state, it faces no legal restriction on hiring undocumented workers,” an Oct. 19 statement read.

CILP faculty authored a memo that detailed the legal theory and submitted it to the UC as a proposal, along with a public sign-on letter and a letter to Michael V. Drake, calling for his support.

“As law professors with considerable experience in immigration law, we write primarily to affirm that we believe that the legal foundation for hiring undocumented students within UC, as described in the attached memorandum, is sound,” CILP Faculty Co-Directors Hiroshi Motomura and Ahilan Arulanantham said in the letter.

UC Office of the President Associate Director of Media Relations Ryan King said the proposal is currently under review, and the UC has not adopted any plans for implementation as of yet.

“The University of California has long been committed to supporting our undocumented students. These are complex issues that deserve careful and thoughtful consideration, including the potential impacts and legal risks for the University and our undocumented students,” King said in a statement to the Nexus. “We are reviewing the proposal and are in the process of determining the appropriate next steps.”

UCLA third-year Chicana/o and Central American studies and labor studies double major and Co-Chair of UCLA undocumented student organization Improving Dreams, Equity and Access (I.D.E.A.S.) Jeffry Umaña Muñoz said he was brought on last summer to lead the campaign’s organizing efforts alongside other student leaders.

“Over the summer of 2022, we began to craft a plan on how we can mobilize undocumented students and undocumented allies across the state of California and other organizations to push forward this campaign and to push on the Regents to hire undocumented students,” Umaña Muñoz said.

The campaign launched this fall, with a series of teach-ins and workshops at various UC campuses, though it hasn’t expanded to UC Santa Barbara yet, Umaña Muñoz said. Since then, the group advocated for the cause at the UC Regents’ January meeting and plans to hold a statewide week of action during Week 8 of Winter Quarter 2023. 

As the proposal continues to undergo evaluation by the UC, Umaña Muñoz emphasized the theory’s legal validity and voiced hope in the campaign.

“Not once was our legal theory challenged. Not once did the UC Office of the President or the Board of Regents or the Office of the General Counsel challenge the soundness of our legal theory,” Umaña Muñoz said. 

He emphasized the necessity of the UC abiding by the proposal to provide support for undocumented students in its system.

“Students are suffering now, and the UC is hiding behind this blanket statement of being afraid of what others might do to us when they have both the power and authority to protect us regardless of what happens,” he said.

A version of this article appeared on p. 3  of the Feb. 9, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Sindhu Ananthavel
Sindhu Ananthavel (she/they) is the Lead News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Ananthavel was the Deputy News Editor for the 2022-23 school year, the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2021-22 school year and an assistant news editor for the 2021-22 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com.