UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. Remarks at January 25 Regents Meeting

The University of California Board of Regents today voted to suspend implementation of Regents Policy 4407 for one year. As the item has now been suspended, no further regental action will occur without a full vote of the Board of Regents.

UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D., made the following remarks:

For a generation, the University of California has worked to expand our support for undocumented students – outstanding young people who have overcome obstacles and achieved at the highest academic levels. We have established campus-based support centers, provided access to legal services, advocated for state and federal policies that bring in additional funding, and gone to the U.S. Supreme Court to make our case for DACA students.

Since last May, we have devoted substantial time and resources to examining ways to further expand our support for undocumented students by providing them with equal access to educational employment experiences. The initial focus of this effort was an academic legal theory that asserts that no federal law prohibits entities like the University of California from hiring undocumented students. Over several months, we consulted formally with numerous law firms and legal experts inside and outside the University. We also explored other legal options and approaches, including declaratory relief. And we carefully studied the possible, substantial risks – to our institution, to undocumented students and their families, and to other UC staff and other members of our university community.

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. For that reason, it is inadvisable for the University to initiate implementation right now.

Nevertheless, we remain committed to continuing to explore our options. As new information becomes available, we will evaluate that information, and if appropriate, move ahead. We will be guided by the same principle we have held from the beginning of this process: supporting our students in a safe and effective manner as they continue their educational journey.

I know that many in our community will be disappointed that we are unable to take immediate action. As an individual, I would like nothing more than to do so, right here, right now, because it is the right thing to do.

However, we have a fiduciary responsibility to consider all possible ramifications of our actions. We must avoid exposing our students and their families to the possibility of criminal prosecution, deportation, or anything that might force a change in their immigration status.

We must also protect others who would be impacted by this action. That includes other employees who might be harmed – including human resources and legal professionals – who might be subject to criminal or civil prosecution if they knowingly participate in hiring practices deemed impermissible under federal law.

 And we must protect our institution, which would be subject to civil fines, criminal penalties, or debarment from federal contracting if the University is found to be in violation of the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act. The University could endanger numerous existing federal contracts and grants that are conditioned on IRCA compliance.

As we take a pause on the legal pathway, there are other things that we can do. We can expand the support we are currently providing to undocumented students in other ways, separate and distinct from the legal pathways that we have been exploring. My office will begin to implement these new approaches immediately, including expanded experiential learning programs modeled after the California College Corps. The University will also continue to strongly advocate for state and federal legislation that would resolve the employment challenges experienced by our students.

Please know that I am committed to continuing to work with the Board, with our students, and with our advocates to break down the barriers that keep our undocumented students from realizing their full potential, and doing so in a way that does not expose individuals or the University to unnecessary risk.

 Thank you, Chair Leib. That concludes my remarks.