Sept. 9, 2013— -- A group of University of California students launched an online petition urging incoming president Janet Napolitano to make the 10-campuses across the state “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants. The petition published on DreamActivist.org late Sunday is demanding the head of Homeland Security meet with a coalition of undocumented students before she takes over one of the country's largest public university systems later this month.
The coalition, led by undocumented student activists, published the petition out of concern that the same person who authorized a record number of deportations as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will now lead an academic institution in which several hundred undocumented students attend.
“We are University of California (UC) students and allies of UC students. We write to express our desire to protect the UC system from the anti-immigrant policies of the Department of Homeland Security,” reads the beginning of the petition which includes an open-letter with nine demands for Napolitano. The first demand is for a meeting with the undocumented students’ coalition in Santa Barbara on Wednesday. The petition also calls for policies that would prevent university officials from working with the federal immigration authorities.
A report issued by the UC Office of the President estimates there were 619 undocumented students studying in the UC system in the 2011-12 academic year. UC Los Angeles had the largest undocumented student population with 168 students identified in the report.
“There is a lot of concern because of Napolitano's record with deportations—with programs like Secure Communities and other programs that she’s overseen as head of Homeland Security and as governor of Arizona,” Andrea Gordillo, a UC Irvine student who helped launch the petition told Fusion. She was referring to the federal immigration enforcement program with partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies
Napolitano led DHS to an unprecedented 1.6 million deportations during Obama's first term.
“We’re aware that after Napolitano implemented Secure Communities in Arizona there were ICE raids on campuses in the state. So a lot people are just in fear because the UC system knows we’re undocumented,” Gordillo, who is also an undocumented immigrant, went on to say.
“When we apply for UC admissions we have to reveal the fact that we don’t have a social security and that we may qualify for AB 540 status,” Gordillo said, referring to a California policy that allows some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition instead of out-of-state tuition in the state’s higher education institutions.
The petition calls on the UC system to “prohibit the use of UC funds or resources to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement with arrests and the gathering or dissemination of information regarding the immigration status of an individual in all UC Campuses.”
The students’ demands also include protections for workers on UC campuses. The petition urges the UC system to “prohibit the use of E-verify for UC employees.” E-Verify is online system that compares information from an employee's Employment Eligibility Verification forms, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.
The students are also demanding UC police officials receive training on the rights of undocumented immigrants to “prevent harassment and criminalization."
Napolitano became the first woman appointed to lead the UC system last month. Her mission as president will be to manage the university's fiscal and business operations.
She is expected to take over the UC system sometime in September.