In twisting the iconic verse of poet Emma Lazarus, â€œGive me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,â€ Cucinelli was peddling one of the Trump administrationâ€™s fundamental myths: that immigrants are presumed to be a burden on society, unless they can prove otherwise.
At the University of California, where I chair the Board of Regents, we see the fallacy of that mind-set every day, at each of our 10 campuses, five medical centers and three national laboratories. Immigrant students, scholars and professors have helped make UC the premier public research university system in the nation, the academic home to 65 Nobel Prize winners, and students from 166 countries representing every continent except Antarctica.
About 1,700 of our undergraduate students were brought to the United States as children by their undocumented parents. Under the previous administration, these students (sometimes known as â€œDreamersâ€) registered for protection from deportation through a policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
As part of its misguided immigration policy, the Trump administration announced plans to strip these protections from our students and about 700,000 DACA recipients nationwide, in essence making these outstanding students pay for a decision made by their parents.
In an effort to protect those students, the University of California is suing the Trump administration. The Supreme Court is about to hear our argument, and I believe itâ€™s important to reflect on the vital principles at stake.
First, DACA recipients pose no threat to public safety, national security or the economic stability of the United States. Quite the opposite. Each has been thoroughly vetted by the Department of Homeland Security, and our students earned their coveted places at the University of California through their high academic achievement.
On average, DACA students nationwide are more likely to attend a four-year college, to earn a degree, to be employed (and thus pay taxes on that income), or to serve in the military than the U.S.-born population at large.
In 2016, UC Merced granted the nationâ€™s first doctorate to a DACA recipient, Yuriana Aguilar, in quantitative and systems biology. Itâ€™s in our collective interest to take advantage of tremendous social and economic contributions that she and other DACA students like her offer this country.
Second, itâ€™s our collective obligation to uphold the deal that the U.S. made with these talented and productive young people.
Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Homeland Security created DACA in 2012, in part to inject a degree of order and logic into a broken immigration system.
As long as DACA recipients are enrolled in school or the U.S. armed forces, or hold a job and have a clean criminal record, they are eligible for a deferment of deportation action, along with a work permit.
DACA cannot begin to address the backlog of immigration cases created by the 11 million people estimated to live in the U.S. without legal status. The real solution is comprehensive immigration reform; until it is enacted, maintaining DACA is essential.
Politicians often say undocumented immigrants should just â€œget in line,â€ if they want to enter the United States legally.
The problem is: There is no line in any meaningful sense.
Even prior to restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, immigrant visas to the U.S. were often granted in random ways that did not reflect the demand for labor or humanitarian needs. According to the latest Department of State data, a relative of a U.S. resident applying for an immigrant visa from Mexico faces a wait of up to 23 years. For residents of the Philippines, that waiting period can be over 11 years.
In 1903, when my grandfather immigrated to California from the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, he was made to fill out a single piece of paper, pay a nominal fee (family lore has it at one penny) and wait two days for his U.S. papers. One hundred and seven years later, I was sworn in as speaker of the California Assembly.
As the son and grandson of immigrants, living a life they could not have imagined, I feel a deep obligation to uphold that mutually beneficial tradition.
The DACA students we are proud to claim as our fellow Californians have done everything the government asked of them â€” enriching our classrooms, workplaces and communities in the process.
Where is the justice â€” or the common sense â€” in deporting them?
If the Trump administration succeeds in revoking DACA, we might as well rewrite the Emma Lazarus poem once more: â€œLetâ€™s get rid of our most vibrant and talented, yearning to shape the future.â€
The University of California is determined not to let that happen. And neither should the Supreme Court of the United States.
John A. PÃ©rez is chair of the University of California Board of Regents and speaker emeritus of the California Assembly.