The University of California announced sweeping actions Wednesday to protect its students who came into the country illegally, saying it would refuse to assist federal immigration agents, turn over confidential records without court orders or supply information for any national registry based on race, national origin or religion.
"While we still do not know what policies and practices the incoming federal administration may adopt, given the many public pronouncements made during the presidential campaign and its aftermath, we felt it necessary to reaffirm that UC will act upon its deeply held conviction that all members of our community have the right to work, study, and live safely and without fear at all UC locations," UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement.
Napolitano said the university would "vigorously protect the privacy and civil rights of the undocumented members of the UC community."
The policies, described as a statement of principles, mark the first unified approach toward federal immigration issues for the system's 10 campuses, according to UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein.
Napolitano formed a task force to examine possible actions shortly after the presidential election of Donald Trump stirred widespread unease and uncertainty on campuses. UC does not track students' immigration status but says about 3,700 have obtained in-state tuition benefits under AB 540, a 2001 law designed to help those in the country illegally.
The UC president announced the new policies a day after she and the heads of the California State University and California Community Colleges sent a joint letter to President-elect Trump urging him to allow students without legal status to continue their educations. Trump, during his campaign, had said he would reverse an Obama administration program Napolitano created as Homeland Security secretary that deferred deportation proceedings against certain young people who stayed in school and out of trouble.
That program has helped nearly 720,000 young people nationally and 214,000 in California apply for work permits and continue their studies without fear of deportation.
The new policies heartened students such as Benyamin bin Mohd Yusof, who was brought illegally to the country from Brunei when he was 2 years old and is now a senior at UC Berkeley studying molecular cellular biology and South and Southeast Asian studies. He said he has felt unsafe since Trump's election, which he said showed that millions of Americans supported "violent and dehumanizing rhetoric about undocumented immigrants like myself."
While the UC protections will help him, he said, he worried about those not able to benefit from them.
"Where will that protection be for my mother and brother?" he said. "We have to do more for undocumented students and others everywhere."
Among the new UC principles:
- Campus police will not assist local, state or federal agents to investigate, detain or arrest students for violations of federal immigration law.
- Police also will be told not to contact, detain, question or arrest individuals solely on suspicion of immigration violations.
- No confidential student records will be released without a judicial warrant, subpoena or court order unless authorized by the student or required by law.
- UC will continue to admit all eligible students without regard to immigration status and take the same stance in treatment of patients at its medical centers.
University police should use their limited resources to build community trust and a "safe and secure environment" on campus rather than to assist in immigration cases, which is a federal responsibility, the statement said.
Campus police also will decline requests by federal immigration agents to detain any individuals unless their assistance is required by law or the individuals are wanted for serious or violent felonies. The California attorney general has concluded that compliance with such requests is voluntary.
In addition, UC will not cooperate with any effort to compile a federal registry of selected groups of people — such as one for Muslims, suggested by Trump during his campaign.
"A federal effort to create a registry based on any protected characteristics … would be antithetical to the United States Constitution, the California Constitution, federal and state laws, and principles of nondiscrimination that guide our university," the statement said.
Earlier this month, Cal State affirmed that it would not help local, state or federal authorities enforce federal immigration law.
8:40 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from student Benyamin bin Mohd Yusof.
7:25 p.m.: This article has been updated to add additional details of, and comments about, the statement of principles.