University of California President Janet Napolitano recently declared that the university would not cooperate with federal officials on any immigration requests they might make. Napolitano also ordered UC campus police not to cooperate with local, state or federal officials in any cases that may involve an illegal immigrant. Failure to cooperate with law enforcement is commonly referred to as obstruction of justice.
Fearmongering Napolitano, who refused to uphold immigration laws when she was Arizona’s governor or later as the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, said that UC would stick to its “deeply held conviction that all members of our community have the right to work, study and live safely and without fear.” California State Chancellor Timothy White and California Community Colleges Chancellor-designate Eloy Ortiz Oakley wrote a letter to Trump that echoed Napolitano’s statement.
But here’s the thing about Napolitano’s misguided perspective, and why she’s unreasonably and ill-advisedly stoking fear in her estimated 2,400 illegal immigrant students. No one in the incoming Trump administration has even remotely suggested that they would be targeting college students in what the pro-immigration lobby likes to call “a roundup.”
In fact, Trump has said just the opposite. Repeatedly and in public forums, Trump has outlined his immigration agenda as first, deport the 2 to 3 million criminal aliens, and second, secure the border with a wall, a fence or a combination of both. After the first two have been accomplished, Trump said he would then turn his attention to what to do about the remaining illegal immigrants.
Obviously, to anyone except Napolitano and immigration activists, getting rid of criminals and securing the border will take a while, possibly most of Trump’s first term. An immigration crisis that’s been building since Congress ignored the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act’s enforcement provisions won’t be resolved in a few months. Beyond that, the optics of deporting college students would reflect poorly on Trump, so it’s unlikely to be among his immigration goals.
A responsible leader, which Napolitano isn’t, would make an effort to reassure her charges that they should listen to what Trump has said now that the election is over, and to look at the probable timeline for Trump to accomplish his priority immigration objectives.
But for argument’s sake, let’s assume that one day the Trump administration decides that illegal immigrant students must be removed. After all, Trump might conclude that UC’s pledge to earmark $25.2 million for loans to illegal immigrants is unfair to the California taxpayers that fund them. Or Trump could reason, as many California parents have, that the approximate 2,500 DREAMer students have unfairly displaced qualified citizen children eager to enroll in UC. If that happens, it would set up UC President Janet Napolitano toe-to-toe versus U.S. President Donald Trump, a battle Napolitano can’t win.
The federal government doesn’t need Napolitano’s approval or assistance to carry out immigration law. The feds can compel Napolitano to comply in many ways, including prosecuting her under the Immigration and Nationality’s Section 274 which makes knowingly harboring aliens a federal offense, a crime punishable by fines and/or jail sentences.
Napolitano’s bold posturing makes for good soundbites, but won’t hold up against a determined Trump administration.