Reaction was broad and swift Thursday to the announcement by UC president Janet Napolitano that she would allocate $5 million in university funds to help the system's estimated 900 students who entered the country illegally.
The issue of how to treat those who don’t have proper immigration papers is a hot one for Napolitano. Critics contend that, in her previous job as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, she oversaw an increase in deportations and they have protested her selection as UC president.
However, Napolitano says that she supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship and adminstered new rules that allow young people who entered the country illegally as children to stay here for at least several years.
In her first major address as head of the system Wednesday, the new UC chief said the so-called Dreamers deserve help to succeed at UC since they are not eligible for federal financial aid. Some of the $5 million also will go to counseling and other services.
Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, a national Latino advocacy organization, said he has mixed feelings about Napolitano's efforts.
"I think it is important that UC make bigger investments in immigrant students, particularly the undocumented ones who have huge disadvantages,” he said. But while he described that as a “positive step,” he said Napolitano has a long road in repairing relationships with many Latinos.
“She has to do a tremendous amount more to heal the devastating impact Homeland Security policies have had on immigrants’ lives, not only in California but all over the United States,” Carmona said.
Ivan Villasenor Madriz, a UC Berkeley sophomore who said he is undocumented, said he hopes the move is the beginning of more outreach to students like him.
“As long as it’s only the first step, it’s wonderful, and if I saw her, I would say, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing,’" Madriz told the Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley student newspaper. But Madriz said he would be unhappy if Napolitano is just trying to deflect criticism or “if it’s her shutting us up.”
Kareem Aref, president of the systemwide UC Student Assn., said Napolitano's announcement was a “great step in the right direction.” Her announcement may help ease fears among some students about her attitudes toward immigrants, said Aref, who is a UC Riverside student.
From the other end of the political spectrum, opponents of aid to those students decried the use of the university money. California already allows those students who entered the country illegally to receive state and campus grants for education.
“This is totally outrageous. It is completely unfair to those who immigrated here legally. Nowadays, you break the law and you are catapulted ahead of others. Stop this insanity,” one commenter wrote on a blog at UCLA’s Daily Bruin newspaper.