UC System Schools Will Not Enforce Federal Immigration Policy

On Wednesday, November 30, University of California President Janet Napolitano released a statement announcing that the well-known UC institution of public schools will not cooperate with President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed policies on illegal immigration:

Given the many public pronouncements made during the presidential campaign and its aftermath, we felt it necessary to reaffirm that UC will act upon its deeply held conviction that all members of our community have the right to work, study, and live safely and without fear at all UC locations.”

While admitting that, as of now, it is unknown what the actual policies and practices of the incoming administration will be, Napolitano stated that police departments at all UC campuses and medical facilities will not discriminate based on race, religion, or natural origin and will not join in federal efforts to investigate the status of any suspected undocumented immigrants. Though this may not seem like an issue that affects many students enrolled across the ten UC system campuses, it’s estimated that there are roughly 2,500 undocumented students within the system, many of whom are protected by the DACA. This sentiment was also reflected by the California State University system which has an estimated undocumented student population of 8,000.

What is the DACA?

The Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was announced in June of 2012, allowing certain people who came to the United States illegally to avoid deportation for two years for the purpose of study or work, with the opportunity of renewal. There are a few stipulations to requesting this status. An applicant must have:

  • Arrived in the United States before their 16th
  • Continuously lived in the United States since June 15, 2007.
  • Never achieved lawful immigration status and be under the age of 31 and as of June 15, 2012, the date the DACA was enacted.
  • Completed high school, be currently enrolled in school, or been honorably discharged from the military.
  • Not been convicted of serious crimes or pose a threat to national security.

In conjunction with the above statement, Napolitano also published an op-ed in the New York Times advocating for the retention of rights for DACA students within the University of California system. Pending the actions taken by the incoming Trump administration, this program may be dismantled or abandoned, putting the education and future of these students in jeopardy.

The Relationship Between Federal and State Immigration Law

So, does the UC School System have the ability to disregard whatever Federal immigration law comes down the pipes of the future Trump administration? The simple answer is in theory no, but in practice, kind of, yes. According to Article I, Section 8, clause 4 of the Constitution, the federal legislative branch holds exclusive control over naturalization, or the ability to make an immigrant a natural citizen of the United States, but this does not necessarily permeate into all aspects of immigration policy. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the Supreme Court even began getting involved in setting limits on state immigration power.

This is where the relationship of dual sovereignty gets especially tricky. For example, going back to the DACA, although it is a federally run program, certain states have chosen not to comply with aspects of the law. A stipulation of the DACA, in addition to granting work and study authorization, allows noncitizens to apply for drivers licenses. However, state governments issue drivers licenses, so states such as Nebraska and Arizona have resisted providing DACA recipients with driver’s licenses, although they have recently come under fire by the Federal Government. On the flip side, other state and local governments, such as California and New York, have declined to comply with certain ICE requests and have pledged to serve as sanctuary states with protected cities for undocumented immigrants.

As can be seen from above, the relationship between federal and local government is very complex. As policies change or are erased completely, the role of an immigration lawyer will undoubtedly become a common place for thousands of people who need to sift through these changes and protect their rights to stay in the country. In combination with growing polarization across the country, the next four years will be an extreme test of the relationship between federal and state governments as well as high profile institutions.

Header image via Gage Skidmore under license.

Rob Tindula

When he's not playing beach volleyball, Rob serves as a general news reporter for Dopplr. He typically covers news related to crime, education, politics, and the environment.

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