UC student leaders had their first meeting Tuesday with new UC system President Janet Napolitano and emerged saying they were “cautiously optimistic” that she would address their concerns, including those affecting students who were brought into the country illegally as children.
Student Regent Cinthia Flores said she appreciated the invitation to meet with Napolitano on what was the second day on the job for the former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security.
“We recognize this was a direct message that we are a high priority on her list of priorities. It’s not to go unnoticed on our behalf,” said Flores, who is a UC Irvine law student.
Although Napolitano made no concrete promises on such issues as freezing tuition and declaring UC campuses a sanctuary from possible deportations for all students and employees, the president did pledge to study such matters, the students said after the meeting at UC headquarters in Oakland.
In July, some student activists had protested the selection of Napolitano as UC president because of the deportations enforced by her federal agency. However, on Tuesday she told them that she supports the so-called Trust Act, state legislation that would restrict local police from detaining immigrants without serious criminal records for possible deportation. Napolitano reportedly told them that she has urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill, which the Legislature passed.
Andrea Gordillo, a UC Irvine student activist who advocated for students who do not have legal immigration status, said she was “cautiously optimistic” about future relations with the president.
Gordillo, a leader with the UC Multicultural Coalition, said she urged Napolitano to publicly support the Trust Act and to take other steps that would lift the fear of deportations. She said the president “listened respectfully” but made no firm commitments. Gordillo said her group will follow up to ensure the issues are not forgotten.
In a statement released by her office, Napolitano said: “It was a productive opening discussion in what I hope will be an ongoing dialogue with students.”
Napolitano said she wants to study ways to expand financial aid, ensure sound campus police practices and help minority students and those who are in the first generation in their families attending college to succeed at UC.
A dozen students attended the meeting, including regent designate Sadia Saifuddin.
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