The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) offers undocumented students “paid internships” regardless of their immigration status — a practice that could be in violation of federal law.
“Dream Summer,” launched in 2011 after the DREAM Act did not pass in the U.S. Senate in 2010, is a 10-week UCLA program offered by the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center that offers paid internships to undocumented immigrants in nonprofit organizations and social justice advocacy groups.
According to Dream Summer’s Frequently Asked Questions, eligibility to apply for Dream Summer is “open to undocumented youth and allies.” In addition, the program is available to undocumented youth both with and without Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
I am not a DACA recipient or DACA eligible. Can I apply to Dream Summer?
YES. Dream Summer does not discriminate against immigration status.
The program encourages its participants to advocate for nationwide immigration reform and universal access to healthcare in addition to other civil justice causes, according to Campus Reform.
However, in consulting with a federal employment attorney who wished to remain anonymous, The Daily Caller uncovered that there is a conflict in how Dream Summer brands itself.
Dream Summer advertises itself as a program that offers “paid internships” and, upon completion of the 10 weeks, all interns are paid $5,000 for their “participation.”
If Dream Summer offered actual “paid internships” where illegal immigrant students are hired to work for the organization or any other outside source, that would be in violation of federal law, the attorney explained.
Pursuant to 8 U.S. Code § 1324a, it is illegal “to hire, or to recruit or refer for a fee, for employment in the United States an alien knowing the alien is an unauthorized alien.”
Seeing as UCLA’s Dream Summer has yet to face legal scrutiny since its beginning in 2011, the attorney speculated that either the federal government is turning a blind eye, or it must not offer actual “paid internships,” but rather privately funded grants or scholarships.
Nowhere on its website is that clear, and Dream Summer could not be reached for comment.
However, outside of Dream Summer and its advertising inconsistencies, UCLA imposes much stricter requirements on students who want to take an unpaid internship opportunity, often making it too costly to accept.
Since California Employment Law requires that unpaid internships also provide “educational value,” UCLA gives students class credit for their summer internships.
But to actually receive the class credit, UCLA charges its students — who won’t be paid for their internship work — over $1,000 in summer tuition, the Daily Bruin reports.
“[This UCLA requirement] closes doors to people who don’t have the economic standing or can’t rely on their parents,” student Natalie Kreeger told the Daily Bruin. “It’s a huge problem.”