In her first major address since becoming the president of the University of California system, former Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano declared that she will approve $5 million in taxpayer-generated funds to ease the tuition burden for illegal immigrants.
Napolitano made the generous announcement on Wednesday evening at the Commonwealth Club at San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Hotel, reports the Los Angeles Times. About 500 people were attended.
The $5 million, which will come out of various discretionary accounts, will go to “Dreamers”—students who entered the United States as children when their parents entered illegally. Most have been in the country for several years.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law two years ago allowing such illegal-immigrant students to receive state and institutional grants and loans at California’s array of public colleges and universities.
The students are not eligible to receive federal financial aid.
UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein told the Times that roughly 900 of the 230,000 students in the University of California system are likely illegal immigrants.
“They are students who deserve the opportunity to succeed and to thrive at UC,” Napolitano said in her Wednesday speech, according to the Times.
“I am setting aside $5 million — right now, for this year — to support these students with resources like trained advisers, student service centers and financial aid. Consider this a down payment—one more piece of evidence of our commitment to all Californians.”
She boasted about the important research at the 10 UC schools throughout California and promised that the UC system “will continue to be a vehicle for social mobility.”
Before accepting her current gig as the UC system president, Napolitano had been the secretary of homeland security during most of President Obama’s first term.
A number of protests have occurred on various campuses since Napolitano took the job because she oversaw the deportations of illegal immigrants while at DHS.
Napolitano appears to be the first UC system president to say she will shower illegal immigrants with money. However, philanthropists have stepped up as well.
Last year, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund gave a $1 million gift to the University of California, Berkeley to provide scholarships for almost 200 students who are illegal immigrants. (RELATED: UC Berkeley to give $1 million in scholarships to illegal immigrants)
Also, this year, some students at two prestigious UC schools have been crusading to ban the phrase “illegal immigrant.”
In September, the student government at UCLA unanimously resolved to call for the eradication of the phrase. (RELATED: UCLA student government resolution bans ‘derogatory’ term ‘illegal immigrant’)
The resolution emphasized the student council’s desire to prevent journalists, media organizations and various campus partners from identifying illegal immigrants as “illegal immigrants.”
The resolution flatly stated that “illegal immigrant” is “racially derogatory language.” Such language “has historically bolstered the foundation for racially harmful actions including racial profiling practices, punitive policies targeting socially marginalized groups, hate crimes and violence,” the resolution proclaimed.
In October, a similar bill was introduced in the student government at Cal Berkeley to outlaw the word “illegal” from campus communication about illegal immigrants, reports The Daily Californian.
Senator Sean Tan, one of the bill’s co-authors, called the word “illegal” a “political strategy to criminalize immigrants,” the campus rag notes.
“It dehumanizes the individual,” Tan said. “It makes them feel invalidated.”
If the bill passes, the student council will ask president DeeJay Pepito to write a letter to professors and school officials encouraging attendance at an awareness-raising workshop about the lives and times of illegal immigrants.