California Democrats pick favorites — and party

From CalMatters higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn:

When you can set your own deadlines, you get to break them.

University of California leaders said they haven’t yet decided on what — and whether — to pursue a bold plan to hire undocumented students, despite saying in May that the system would reach a decision by the end of November.

On Thursday, UC regents and the system president set no new deadline.

“We concluded that it is in everyone’s best interest to continue to study the matter further,” said UC President Michael Drake, who noted UC legal representatives have met with the plan’s backers more than six times this year. “We want to make sure that we’re considering all possible alternatives and all possible ramifications.”

“Most importantly, we want to make sure that our undocumented students are protected in any scenario we decide to pursue,” Drake said.

The decision followed a raucous public comment period as roughly 30 students broke out in chants and crossed the stanchions separating them from the regents, shutting down the meeting. UC police and security squared off with the protesters before forcibly pushing them through a wide door into a separate hallway. Students demanded to speak with the regents on a working committee created to study the hiring plan, known as Opportunity For All. Ultimately, several members of that working group emerged, bringing two undocumented student leaders back into the regents room for a closed-door meeting.   

After that meeting, the two students, Jeffry Umaña Muñoz, 21, and Karely Amaya, 23, told CalMatters that the regents said they’re committed to a full roll-out of the plan by January, but that they do not speak for the whole board. Those regents included Jose Hernandez and John Pérez, according to the students. A regent confirmed that summary.

While a 1986 law states hiring undocumented immigrants is illegal, advocates last November debuted a novel legal theory maintaining that the UC, as a state agency, is exempt.

Supporters of the proposal say it’s needed because the federal government halted accepting new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provided eligible young recipients permission to work in the U.S. and protection from deportation. The policy applies to individuals who arrived in the U.S. by June 15, 2007, leaving most young students today ineligible. 

An estimated 4,000 UC students could be permitted to pursue jobs in the system If the regents approve the proposed policy.

Amaya told regents on Wednesday that she struggles as a UCLA graduate student. She said that a job awaits her at the UCLA Labor Center if the UC approves Opportunity For All. Until then, she’ll continue to rely on babysitting, selling clothes at a swap meet with her mother, plus some scholarships and stipends, she told CalMatters.

Speaking of college students struggling to make ends meet:

From CalMatters community college reporter Adam Echelman:

California college students are struggling to pay for rent and food, and the problem has been getting worse, according to a new survey released by the California Student Aid Commission that looked at students who applied for financial aid. The survey included responses from students across the state’s public universities and community colleges, as well as its nonprofit and for-profit institutions.

In 2019, the Student Aid Commission found that more than a third of students who applied for financial aid were either food or housing insecure. Fast forward to today, where 53% of students who applied for aid reported that they struggled to pay for rent and 66% said they couldn’t consistently pay for food. There is a caveat to the comparison, said Student Aid Commission spokesperson Shelveen Ratnam: In the 2019 survey, the Student Aid Commission looked at students’ experiences in the past 30 days. The recent survey looked at the past year.

The data doesn’t come as a surprise. For years, surveys of college students have shown that rising housing prices and the COVID-19 pandemic have put students on the brink of hunger and homelessness. In response, lawmakers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in special grants to create programs and services, including free food pantries, at the state’s community colleges, UC and California State University campuses. The recent survey found that these challenges with housing and food costs are particularly common among students older than 24, students with children, and students who are African American or Hispanic.

And students are active across the state expressing themselves on the Israel-Hamas war. 

CalMatters’ College Journalism Network fellows report on what’s happening at several campuses: Cal State Long Beach, Stanford, UCLA, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Bakersfield and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. 

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