Anti-Trump demonstrators over the weekend
Anti-Trump demonstrators over the weekend
Brian Feinzimer/L.A. Weekly

California University Leader Promises Safe Campuses for Undocumented Students

The leader of California State University, the nation's largest four-year higher education system, says his campuses will be safe for undocumented college students regardless of what the Trump administration does on immigration.

The statements were made today to his board of trustees in Long Beach.

The remarks come as students opposed to Trump's stance on illegal immigration — he has promised to deport as many as 3 million people here illegally who have violations on their records — have used social media to demand their universities become a #SanctuaryCampus. Trump previously said that all 11 million people here illegally must leave.

Toni Molle, CSU director of public affairs, confirmed the remarks made by White, which also were posted on social media by a professor.

The remarks include White's announcement to trustees today that the university system and its police departments would not enter into agreements with federal authorities to assist in the enforcement of immigration law. He reportedly said that Cal State cops would not honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "hold" requests for people with whom officers have been in contact, and that campus police are not to detain anyone solely on suspicion of being undocumented.

And he said the university's mission is to protect educational access for students, including those who enjoy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections.

The CSU system educates more than 474,000 students, employs about 49,000 people and has a budget of $5 billion. It's unclear how much of the university's funding comes from federal sources (update: see below); President-elect Trump's leverage to obtain cooperation from law enforcement agencies and other institutions could be his power of the purse strings.

UC president Janet Napolitano today addressed her board of regents. While she didn't make the same promises White conveyed, the spirit of her remarks was similar.

"We already know our undocumented students may be at risk if President Trump erases President Obama’s executive policies on immigration, including DACA, which was a directive I issued when I was the Secretary of Homeland Security," she said. "We have formed a working group to work through DACA and other immigration issues as they affect our students and our campuses. I will be meeting soon with our undocumented student coordinators, and will keep the board apprised as we see what the new administration actually intends to do.

"It goes without saying, but I will say it again: We are proud of what the University of California stands for and hope to convey that positive message to others in our state and in our nation," she continued. "It is more important than ever that we preserve our core values, expand opportunity and create and share knowledge in the public interest."

UPDATE at 5:38 p.m., Nov. 16, 2016: CSU director of public affairs Toni Molle says the bulk of the university's federal funding is "pass through" cash that goes to students in the form of financial aid — $996 million worth. The system also receives $38 million in direct grants and contracts from Uncle Sam, and $342 million in auxiliary grants and contracts, she said. For a $5 billion-a-year system, it's relatively small change.

Correction : An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that White intended to issue an executive order that would declare CSU campuses as "sanctuaries." White did not make that pledge.

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