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‘Undocumented’ U. California students to hunger strike for ‘equal employment opportunities’


‘We’re basically already starving … we’re just taking it to another level’

This past week, the group Undocumented Student-Led Network announced plans for a hunger strike until illegal immigrant students get “equal employment opportunities” in the University of California system.

Students in the country illegally currently are forbidden to hold “any campus job, including research and teaching assistant positions,” The Daily Californian notes.

This is due to 1986’s Immigration Reform & Control Act which forbids the hiring of illegal residents without proper authorization. The board of regents voted on Thursday last week to not hire illegal immigrant students. “After all of this, we have concluded that the proposed legal pathway is not viable at this time and, in fact, carries significant risk for the institution and for those we serve,” UC President Michael Drake stated, as reported by NPR.

The Undocumented Student-Led Network says this means “undocumented students are blocked from countless opportunities that their peers with permanent residency [and] citizenship” have.

Twenty-one students are slated to participate in the hunger strike until UC adopts the so-called “Opportunity For All Campaign,” which will allow the employment of undocumented students.

Leonardo Rodriguez, co-founder of the group Improving Dreams, Equity, Access & Success (IDEAS), claimed “only 14%” of undocumented students get enough financial aid to pay for college. He said some “need to budget for only two meals a day.”

Regarding the hunger strike, IDEAS co-founder Diana Ortiz Aguilar said “we’re basically already starving […] we’re just taking it to another level.”

MORE: In campus speech, David Hogg says U.S. is stolen land, justifies illegal immigration

The UC Board of Regents met Thursday in a closed session to discuss “equitable student employment opportunities,” according to the UC Office of the President. Last year the board had directed the establishment of a “working group” to “come up with implementation plans” for an “Equitable Student Employment Opportunities” policy.

UCLA Law Professor Ahilan Arulanantham claims the UC system “has the power to treat our students equally, and [has] a perfectly sound way to adopt legal theory that would allow them to do it.”

UCLA – The Optimists – Hiroshi MotomuraArulanantham and law peer Hiroshi Motomura (pictured) argue, based on U.S. Supreme Court precedent, that “federal law does not bind state government entities if it does not mention the state explicitly.”

As such, it is “legally sound” to hire illegal immigrant students.

Arulanantham and Motomura are co-founders of the UCLA School of Law’s Center for Immigration Law and Policy. The former was winning counsel in Franco-González v. Holder, which established a “federal right to appointed counsel for any group of immigrants.”

Motomura was as an “outside advisor” to the Barack Obama Working Group on Immigration Policy during the 2008 presidential transition. A year ago, he argued that, in order to fight racism, California should cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and ditch a “gang database.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information on the regents’ decision not to hire illegal immigrants

MORE: Univ. library system adds ‘ethical’ search options so students can avoid the term ‘illegal aliens’

IMAGE: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock.com; UCLA

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.