The University of California will provide lawyers to any of its illegal immigrant students who get detained by agents, system President Janet Napolitano said Friday.
She said the assistance won’t extend to their family members, but if any students get snared as President Trump calls for stiffer enforcement, the taxpayer-funded school system will ensure they get help as they go through deportation proceedings.
“We will supply them with a lawyer,” she said at a forum sponsored by the Migration Policy Institute.
Ms. Napolitano, who was President Obama’s first Homeland Security secretary before becoming president of one of California’s public college systems, said illegal immigrants with lawyers do much better in their deportation cases than those without.
California is among the most generous states to illegal immigrant students. It already offers in-state tuition for illegal immigrants who attended state high schools, and also has a loan program designed to provide money that the migrants would have been eligible for from the federal government, but for their legal status.
Gov. Jerry Brown, however, has proposed phasing out an assistance program for middle-class families — drawing fire from those who say the state shouldn’t be prioritizing illegal immigrants over legal residents.
“I struggle to understand the justification for putting illegal immigrants ahead of middle class American families,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, in a letter to Mr. Brown this week. “Doing so puts a clear, undue burden on the backs of hard-working families in our state while further incentivizing illegal immigration with the promise of education benefits.”
Illegal immigrant children and young adults are in fear over their status under Mr. Trump. Many of the young adults applied for President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and are waiting to see if Mr. Trump cancels that program.
“That uncertainty is breeding a lot of stress in our campus community,” Ms. Napolitano said.
Donald Graham, a former publisher of The Washington Post who now runs a scholarship program for illegal immigrants, said some high school counselors are telling students not to apply for DACA anymore.
The Trump administration has said that so-called Dreamers, the young adult illegal immigrants who qualify for DACA, aren’t high on their list of deportation priorities. And Ms. Napolitano said that appears to be true even under the president’s newly revised deportation priorities.