CFA-sponsored bill protecting undocu-scholars passes Senate

A CFA-sponsored bill that aims to safeguard undocumented students, faculty, and staff in California’s public universities from harmful federal immigration policies has passed the state Legislature.

Assembly Bill 21, authored by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, was approved by the Senate in a 29-8 vote Tuesday. The bill passed the Assembly in June.

On Tuesday, students and faculty rallied at the Capitol and held a news conference call at CFA headquarters in Sacramento, where they encouraged legislators to pass the bill, and Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it into law.

The bill was approved 45-15 in a concurrence vote in the Assembly. It now heads to Gov. Brown’s desk.

“The educators of the California Faculty Association have fought to make our public California State University system the most inclusive higher education system in the world. As on so many issues that affect immigrant families, California paved the way for our undocumented students to get full access to public colleges and universities,” said CFA President Jennifer Eagan. 

“These gains remain under threat from 45’s administration and some of his red state confederates. We’re not going to let them diminish the supportive community and strong economy that we have built here in California. The faculty is seriously fierce and standing right behind our students and colleagues.”

Dr. Margarita Berta-Ávila, a Professor of Education at Sacramento State University and president of the CFA Capitol Chapter said changes to federal immigration policy have rattled campus communities throughout the state.

“AB 21 is the institutional support we need to ensure all students, faculty, and staff—regardless of immigration status—may continue to pursue education and teaching free from intimidation and risk of loss of access,” Berta-Ávila said. “History teaches us that movements in the US and across the world are successful when those who have nothing to lose stand up, speak, mobilize, at whatever our capacity is to do so – and refuse to take on the role of bystanders. As members of this society and community, this is the moment to not be that bystander.”

The bill’s language and focus was inspired in large part by CFA’s unwavering support of undocumented students, colleagues, staff, and their families. Bill author Kalra, himself an immigrant, introduced the legislation the first day he took office in the Assembly.

“It is in this country’s best interest as a nation of immigrants to ensure that those who pursue educational and academic growth may further contribute to the productivity of this great state and nation,” Kalra said.

The bill would require the CSU and state community colleges to extend protections and resources to undocumented students, faculty, staff, and their families, and ensures that students with DACA status have access to financial aid, legal representation, and their constitutional right to due process. The bill requests the same of the University of California.

At the Tuesday news conference, Kalra announced that Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon agreed to provide $30 million in legal assistance for those covered under the DACA program. Two-thirds of the money will fund immigration legal services under a statewide program, while the remaining funding will be reserved for students enrolled in California community colleges and state universities.

The news drew applause from students, faculty, and supporters in the room.

The bill is supported by the CSU, UC, California Community Colleges, Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, and many more.