Proposed California bill to allow undocumented students employment, CPP experts share their input

By Teresa Acosta, March 19, 2024

California Assembly Bill 2586, authored by Assemblymember David Alvarez and introduced during a press conference Feb. 15, allows the Universities of California, California State Universities and California community colleges to hire undocumented students for campus employment.

Alvarez called AB 2586  the “Opportunity for All Act” and, if passed, will remove the limitations put on colleges for hiring students based on their immigration status.

According to the text of the bill, “Colleges shall not disqualify a student from being eligible to apply for an employment position at the campus due to their failure to provide proof of federal work authorization.”

Undocumented students are currently barred from employment opportunities, including educational ones such as teaching assistants and medical residencies.

During the press conference, Alvarez said the bill will take aim at the inequities undocumented students deal with in their pursuit of higher education and their ability to financially support themselves.

“We are going to give them the opportunity to actually get to work, compete with everybody else, but get a chance to work,” said Alvarez.

According to data from the Higher Ed Immigration Portal, there are approximately 83,000 undocumented students currently in higher education in California.

Joselyn Torres, a biology student, thinks the Opportunity for All Act is a good idea. She has many undocumented friends who struggle to find jobs. She said one of her friends had to get a job where she was paid under the table.

“Under-the-table jobs” are employees who receive their compensation in cash or by some other untraceable form, and are often the only way for undocumented students to earn an income while in college. An article published in the California Law Review stated this can lead to exploitation, such as wage theft and unsafe working conditions because of the lack of accountability.

Sara Gamez, the director of Student Support & Equity Programs, explained in an email that the Undocumented Student Services office “encourage(s) students to participate in the Dream Service Incentive Grant program, College Corps program, and also collaborate with the career center and other off campus organizations to share info to students on career readiness and entrepreneurship for independent contracting.”

The bill is set to be put before the Committee on Higher Education where a majority vote is required for the bill to move forward.

Feature image courtesy of Hannah Smith. 

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