Across the United States, those without legal status often face discrimination and unequal opportunities when looking for work due to their resident status. Employers try to negotiate under the table deals or do not give these employees the same salary, benefits or protections due to them not being considered a proper employee. While it is illegal to discriminate against those without legal status, this sentiment stems from the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 that states, an employer must verify the identity and employment eligibility of all employees who are hired after 1986 by completing a verification form while also confirming the employee’s identity and employment authorization. Despite this act, the UC system is being urged to reconsider their position on allowing undocumented students employment opportunities by The Opportunity for All Campaign. This campaign has researched the 1986 Act and has found it does not cover state entities like the UC. By hiding behind the legality of this act, those without legal status are losing out on jobs that would help them further their careers, or just aid them in supporting themselves, and the UC System needs to pave the way in acknowledging this group by offering them employment.
The Opportunity for All Campaign argues that the UC is considered an entity of the state and would not face legal repercussions for allowing students without legal status work opportunities. UC Students who are not legal residents currently have limited jobs that they can hold and are not able to participate in research positions or other jobs that they may be qualified for. The students who do hold jobs through campus are often just considered unpaid interns or are given a stipend at the end of each academic quarter or semester in the form of a scholarship that goes towards tuition. Denying these students the ability to be paid in a weekly or biweekly pay period limits their economic situations and prevents the UC campuses from benefiting from their contributions. While the legal status of someone can cause stress and other problems in their daily lives, employment should not be one of these factors and the UC System has the ability to offer their students this support and security.
According to The New York Times, The UC is the third-largest employer in California, and hiring students without legal resident status could provide opportunities for nearly 45,000 California students. This economic aid with the support of a large entity like the UC would send a message to California, along with other states and universities, that those without legal status deserve to be here and have equal opportunities. Opposers to allowing undocumented students work opportunities might not want to support this group for biased reasons or may worry about any repercussions the UC System would face for going against the 1986 Act. These opponents, however, are wrong and possess a limited world scope that lacks empathy for those who are also just trying to survive and create a substantial life in the US. The UCs often pride themselves on their diversity and how they are a safe space for undocumented peoples by providing sanctuary, but are failing to fully support their communities by not agreeing to offer this group full employment.
With DACA status’ left up in the air following a lack of initiative from the Biden Administration to protect undocumented peoples, students attending a UC need even more support from their campuses to help give them the tools they need to succeed in life and start their careers. By limiting the opportunities these students have they are being set back and pit against their colleagues instead of being able to focus on their studies. Those in support of The Opportunity for All Campaign can sign their letter pushing the UC System to allow those without legal status work opportunities. It is time for the UC to take a stand and allow equal opportunities for these students who they claim to support.