The UC Student Association voted on Sunday to recognize a list of demands by UC student groups that vocalized concerns of undocumented students in light of Janet Napolitano’s recent appointment as UC president.
Representatives of UC undocumented student organizations and their allies presented five demands, which began with a call for recognizing the legitimacy of undocumented immigrants’ fears about their safety at the university. Other demands included recognizing that a UCSA official letter regarding Napolitano’s appointment was “premature” and “did not truly reflect the voice and values of all UC students.”
All five demands were passed by the UCSA board, except for one, which called for the UCSA to take a public stance against Napolitano’s appointment.
“I’m very glad that they listened,” said Andrea Gordillo, a member of DREAM at UC Irvine. “We are content that they approved the first five demands. We knew it was very unlikely that the board would make a decision on this (the last demand).”
Napolitano’s policy on immigration as homeland security secretary has been controversial among some in the UC community in part because of her involvement with the Secure Communities program, which allows local police to assist federal immigration agencies in deporting undocumented immigrants.
In response to concerns regarding Napolitano’s political background on immigration, Dianne Klein, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, defended Napolitano by making clear the distinction between her role as the future UC leader and her current position as a political leader.
“She’s not coming to the UC to enforce any immigration policy,” Klein said, pointing to Napolitano’s support of the federal DREAM Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. “She’s the president of the UC, not the president of immigration policy.”
The organizations also requested that UCSA support UC Student Regent Cinthia Flores. At last month’s UC Board of Regents meeting, Flores voted against Napolitano’s appointment.
“I was compelled to respond to the student constituency that I represent,” Flores said, adding that despite her criticism of Napolitano, she hopes to foster a “strong working relationship” between the students and the new UC president.
Although the UCSA voted to recognize the fears of the organizations as legitimate, it shied away from supporting a demand calling for the UCSA to make a public statement opposing Napolitano’s appointment and asking the UCSA to “acknowledge the pain (Napolitano) has caused family and friends of the undocumented UC students and community.”
“A lot of our board members felt that they needed to consult their constituents before taking such a strong stance,” said UCSA President Kareem Aref. The board decided in a vote of 11 to 4 to 2 to postpone the discussion until a later meeting.
To gauge student opinion about Napolitano, the UCSA plans to post a form on its website this week, according to Aref.
Safeena Mecklai, ASUC external affairs vice president at UC Berkeley, was a voting member on the UCSA board and proposed writing a resolution for the ASUC Senate to gauge students’ stance on Napolitano.
“I need to understand where students are coming from before I make a decision,” Mecklai said.
The board will vote on the last demand, regarding an opposition of Napolitano’s appointment, at its September meeting at UC Berkeley.
Contact Grace Wu at [email protected]