Janet Napolitano is taking a much softer stance on undocumented immigrants as UC’s president than she did as the Homeland Security secretary.
What a difference a few months can make. Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security and now the new President of the University of California system, is making a U-turn on immigration. This time she’s not deporting undocumented immigrants, but giving them money instead.
The new UC president says she will dedicate $5 million of university funds to help students who entered the U.S. illegally and do not qualify for federal financial aid.
This is in stark contrast to her role in the Obama administration. During her tenure as Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano set new department records for deportations. Enforcement and removal operations (ERO) accounted for more than 207,000 deportations in 2010, or 53 percent of all deportations in the United States that year. So far in fiscal year 2013, ERO has accounted for just 38 percent of removals.
Napolitano’s work on immigration was criticized by many as being inconsistent with President Obama’s immigration reform legislation, known as the Dream Act, where children of undocumented parents would be granted the right to become citizens. Now, as President of the University of California, she is making good on a policy she previously ignored.
When Napolitano took the position, she was greeted with jeering students protesting against her role in Homeland Security and her department record increase in deportations. But Napolitano long has said that she supports comprehensive immigration reform and had implemented the Obama administration’s policy changes that now allow many students who were brought to America as children — known as “Dreamers” — to stay in the country for at least several years.
“They are students who deserve the opportunity to succeed and to thrive at UC,” Napolitano said in a speech.
“I am setting aside $5 million — right now, for this year — to support these students with resources like trained advisors, student service centers and financial aid. Consider this a down payment — one more piece of evidence of our commitment to all Californians,” she said. “UC will continue to be a vehicle for social mobility. We teach for California; we research for the world.”
The University of California will provide the $5 million for the “Dreamers” and $10 million for graduate student and postdoctoral aid by tapping into extra reserves in discretionary accounts that traditionally are used to help faculty with home mortgages.
Many students felt Napolitano’s statement was a continuation of Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) work on the California Dream Act, which in 2013 granted undocumented immigrant students access to state financial aid.
The $5 million will help “bridge the gap” to state financial aid, according to UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein, but details remain sketchy about how much would be allocated to aid and how much each student could receive. It is believed that about 900 of UC’s 230,000 students are “Dreamers,” from undocumented parents.
Kareem Aref, president of the UC Student Association, said Napolitano’s announcement was a “great step in the right direction,” but added, “Some students remain worried about her because of federal Homeland Security policies.”