Chancellor Carol Christ’s statement on detained UC Berkeley student spurs controversy

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Amid growing public outcry over campus junior Luis Mora’s detainment by California border patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, Chancellor Carol Christ released a statement Monday praising the campus community’s efforts to encourage Mora’s release.

The statement — which was released more than a week after Mora was detained Dec. 30 in San Diego — does not specifically mention Mora by name in its roughly 430 words. It comes as a response to UC Berkeley students and staff members publicizing Mora’s ongoing legal situation on social media through the hashtag #FreeLuis.

In the statement, Christ said the university is working to help release Mora and has no intention to back down from its “fundamental commitment to justice and equity.”

The Chancellor said in the statement that she sent a message to the campus students who “are making extraordinary efforts to secure the release of our student detained near the U.S.-Mexico border” in support and solidarity for their action.

Students who are members of Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, or RISE, a campus immigrant rights organization, have spearheaded the campaign to release Mora from ICE custody.

On Tuesday, RISE made a statement on its Facebook page addressing Christ’s statement and said the chancellor never contacted RISE.

“To this day, Chancellor Christ has not sent any message directly to any of the students who have mobilized in support of Luis Mora, nor has she explained anything regarding privacy laws.” RISE said in its statement. “Her silence has been absolute.”

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, however, said in an email that the campus is working “behind the scenes” to take appropriate action to assist in Mora’s release and help him resume his studies.

“For example, the Chancellor has sent a letter to the judge in the student’s case, advocating for the student’s release.” Gilmore said in an email. “The timing and content of our communications on this issue are guided (by) our assessment of how best to secure the student’s release, as well as by student privacy considerations.”

In Christ’s statement she said the university is working to ensure that Mora has access to legal advice and attorney services.

Mora’s attorney, Prerna Lal, who works for the Undocumented Student Program on campus, said in a tweet Friday that the campus does not pay Lal to work on Mora’s case, or for any of the work Lal does on campus. All of Lal’s work on campus is supported through private donations, according to the tweet.

Mora made an appointment with Lal in the fall semester but had difficulty accessing Lal, according to the tweet.

“UC Berkeley doesn’t make it easy for students to access me. I borrow office space on campus once a week to meet them. That needs to change so that the same thing that happened to Luis doesn’t happen to other students on campus #FreeLuis.”

Senator Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff also initiated a statement from ASUC members as a call to action to support Mora and efforts to release him and all detained individuals.

“Beyond Luis’ status as a student of UC Berkeley, his humanity is deserving of immediate release.” said the ASUC members in the statement. “ALL detained individuals are deserving of immediate release.”

Cordova-Goff said in an email that she feels the ASUC should be one of the first bodies to speak up for students, but she encourages people to pay attention to what actions representatives are taking when controversy is spurred on campus.

RISE said in its statement that the organization will not let any UC Berkeley official “take credit” for efforts to release Mora from detainment.

“To everyone else reading this statement, do not be fooled into believing UC Berkeley has done anything to help Luis Mora until you see proof of the opposite,” RISE said in its statement.

Jessíca Jiménez is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and and follow her on Twitter at @jesscajimenez_dc.