Amid Pandemic, UC Berkeley Offers Free Online Legal Support for Illegal Immigrant Students

April 28, 2020 Updated: May 11, 2020

As its campus remains closed for the rest of the semester, the University of California-Berkeley reaffirmed to illegal immigrant students and staff that they can still seek legal support online from the school’s immigration lawyers for free.

In a campus-wide email on Monday, Chancellor Carol Christ directed students to the university’s “Undocumented Student Program” and staff to “Employee Assistance” or “People and Culture” for resources that are made available online, in case they become “subject to an immigration order or inquiry on or off campus.”

“Every member of the UC Berkeley community is a valuable contributor to the university, regardless of immigration status,” the email read, noting that there are “many issues of concern” causing a “heightened level of anxiety” across the school community, especially the approaching date for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the fate of those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

Created by the Obama administration in 2012, the DACA program grants illegal aliens who were brought to the United States as children protection from deportation, as well as renewable work permits. In 2017, the Trump administration announced it would terminate DACA, and the Supreme Court is expected to decide by June on whether that decision was lawful.

Rally Held For DACA Recipients In Los Angeles On Day Supreme Court Hears Case
Students and supporters rally in support of DACA recipients on the day the Supreme Court hears arguments in DACA case in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 12, 2019. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Some of the university’s online resources include free appointments with immigration lawyers of Berkeley-based law group East Bay Community Law Center, as well as “DACA Renewal Clinics,” which aim to help illegal immigrants renew their DACA applications via phone or video conference.

The university also promised to keep an eye on immigration agent visits for its students and staff, although the federal government “has historically not engaged in immigration enforcement activity on college and university campuses.”

“It is important to note that from time to time federal immigration officials can and do enter campus for non-enforcement activities, which can include recruitment and activities related to standard immigration visa processing,” the email read. “When we have advance notice, the Undocumented Student Program staff communicate directly with impacted students about these visits to campus.”

The message came days after UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program held an online presentation advising students who are in the country illegally to participate in the ongoing Census. Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the Census is a population count that is carried out every 10 years to determine where billions of federal money goes, and more importantly, how many congressional seats each state gets.

“There was speculation that the goal of the president was to draw districts based on citizenship. However, the census will not ask about your immigration status or that of your family,” an organizer said during the presentation, reported The Daily Californian. “Undocumented people are encouraged to fill out the census if they want to.”