Law students denounce Napolitano commencement speech


University of California President Janet Napolitano deported thousands of undocumented citizens in her time as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Now, UC Hastings College of Law students want Napolitano deported from their graduation ceremony. 

Current and past UC Hastings students launched a petition protesting an upcoming graduation commencement speech from Napolitano, who oversaw what some say are record deportations in the United States. 

The Change.Org petition against the speech minces no words in denouncing her role in seperating families from their homes, and from each other. 

"As Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Ms. Napolitano spearheaded inhumane policies, including wide implementation of so-called 'Secure Communities,' a deportation program notorious for its conflation of the criminal and immigration systems," the petition states. "Her actions have caused profound tragedy to members of the Class of 2014, their families, and members of the Hastings community at large."

Napolitano was hired on as president of the University of California system last year, sparking protests from undocumented student rights groups up and down the state, which we've covered previously ["Undocumented and Unafraid", 11/13]. Two student groups, Hastings Students for Immigrants' Rights and Hastings La Raza Law Association, initially voiced concern over the choice of Napolitano as commencement speaker. When their outcry fell on the school adminstration's deaf ears, the students reached out to Hastings alumni for help. 

"I was immediately concerned," Noemi Gallardo, a 2012 Hastings alum told the Guardian. "Students are investing a lot of money in their schooling, and graduation is a celebrant time," she said, except now families who are immigrants, or children of immigrants, will have their commencement given by one of the most controversial figures in their community.

"Bringing Napolitano celebrates scare tactics and harmful policies," Gallardo said.

Gallardo and a group of alumni launched the petition and an open letter to Chancellor and Dean Frank H. Wu, which was signed by 15 Hastings student organizations, including the Hastings chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The petition garnered more than 300 individual supporters in its first few days. 

Napolitano speaking to these students makes about as much sense as asking asking Mitt Romney to give a speech to Occupy Wall Streeters. Maybe that's why Gallardo's inbox was overflowing with students asking for help in stopping Napolitano from giving the speech.

"I've received phone calls, emails, Facebook messages," Gallardo said. She and a group of fellow Hastings alum sat down for a meeting on Napolitano with Frank H. Wu, chancellor and dean of UC Hastings. 

Gallardo and alum hoped Wu would back down on the decision, but instead he's doubled down. Wu issued a statement to students and posted it publicly on the UC Hastings website. 

"I would like to acknowledge those from the UC Hastings community who have raised this issue—some of whom have had loved ones deported," Wu wrote. "As the child of immigrants myself, I have experienced the effects of restrictive policies for determining who may become a Chancellor and Dean of this law school, I want to be unequivocal: I am proud that we have trained advocates for a cause who wish to stand up and speak out. We will do our utmost to protect the free speech rights of those who wish to share their opinions, while ensuring that the dignity of the Commencement ceremony is maintained."

But caveats aside, Wu ended the letter by reasserting his commitment to Napolitano as commencement speaker. "We do not shy away from the controversy that is integral to the progress of the law," he wrote. "In this spirit, I look forward to welcoming University of California President Janet Napolitano to the stage for Commencement on May 10."

For Gallardo, denouncing Napolitano as commencement speaker is not just political, it's personal.

She's a first generation American, and her parents are both from Mexico. "We lived very humbly," she said. She's worked in the immigrant community for close to a decade, from legal work to translations. She now runs a policy consulting group that works closely with nonprofits, adressing language access, legislation and education issues affecting minority communities. 

"This," she said, "hit close to home."

Students, alumni and their supporters also spoke out against Napolitano's speech via Twitter using the commencement hashtag #UCHastings2014


Is "undocumented immigrant" already offensive? Your first line says "undocumented citizens."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

not only can we not say "illegals" but we cannot even call them "immigrants" any more.

Instead they are "citizens" even though of course they are not.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 1:47 am

But they ARE citizens - and documented ones (for the most part) - just not of THIS country. So we should call them -

Citizens with documents but not documented in their current country of residence.

Posted by Jimbo on May. 01, 2014 @ 11:35 am

foreign documented citizens

transnationaly documented citizens

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 11:54 am

She was following the law by deporting illegal aliens. What was she supposed to do...turn a blind eye? How ridiculous of supposed law students to not know this.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

Unless they disagree with the law, or the police that Napolitano set

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 8:36 am

It's their job to enforce it as officers of the courts.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 9:38 am


Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 4:37 pm

Napolitano may be a poor choice for UC President, as her background doesn't exactly speak to her years of experience as a lawyer. But there is validity in following the system that the government has put in place. It's upsetting that future lawyers cannot understand the role that leaders like Napolitano embody. It would be an admirable lesson for these students to learn that even when the system is flawed, we must follow it, lest others with a different opinion similarly disregard the rules society has put in place.

Napolitano has had a successful career as a lawyer, and only one aspect of her career relates to immigration. Unfortunately, immigration policies are a real concern that the country must deal with, and it seems these students would rather blame a figurehead than confront the real issues with the system. Hopefully the administration doesn't balk to a vocal minority, as it would be disappointing for the rest of their peers to have no speaker instead of Napolitano.

I would expect future lawyers to have a better grasp of leadership and the legal system they are joining. This explains the slip Hastings has had in recent years.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

"even when the system is flawed, we must follow it, lest others with a different opinion similarly disregard the rules society has put in place."

I believe that if we all followed this logic, slavery, segregation, child labor, child abuse, and other social injustices would continue to this day. It is easy to disregard topics that do not affect one on a personal level, but part of your civic responsibility is to look out for the well being of the nation, citizens or not. This country boasts on being the land of freedom, but remember freedom wasn't gained by following a flawed system. Our forefathers believed "taxation without representation" was not fair and did something about it.

These students have every right to protest this speaker. Yes, I agree the system is the real problem, but this individual was a key stakeholder for many years and represents that oppressive movement. As students, they have a right to voice how they would prefer their graduation ceremony to play out. Opposing the current system does not mean that these students to do not have a "grasp" on "the legal system they are joining," but rather that they are utilizing their critical thinking skills, as any human being should.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

She was not merely following the law - she was enacting new policies that mandated a stricter and harsher application of the law. We, "future lawyers," oppose her as a commencement speaker particularly because we understand the system of government and "the role that leaders like Napolitano embody."

We want an inspirational speaker at our graduation. I think $160K in student loans entitles us to that.

- Class of 2014 member

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

160K in student loans and a dollar entitles you to a cup of coffee.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 7:44 pm

"We want an inspirational speaker at our graduation. I think $160K in student loans entitles us to that.

- Class of 2014 member"

When you are broke and unemployed, I'll laugh at your pretensions.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 11:49 pm

understand that your job is to FOLLOW the law and not to write the law.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 1:48 am

Who do you think writes the laws? Leave it to the people who went to law school, internet commenter.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

" We, "future lawyers,""

Don't you mean "future baristas"?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 6:05 am

What kind of role does she embody? Nothing that I wish to perpetuate. I don't think our standard should be to simply invite someone just because they have power and experience.

I understand that one person will never be able to please anybody, but I do think that a school can do better than this in choosing a graduation speaker. Let's strive for better! A role model! ...not settle for mediocre, or in this case - offensive.

I think the students of 2014 are right to speak up. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by Member of the Class of 2013 on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

What more could we want?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 10:54 am

"undocumented citizens"?

Wait, what? Occasionally the SFBG writes something so completely idiotic, that for a minute, I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it was just an honest error. Then I come to my senses and realize that sadly, no, they really are just that stupid.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 6:22 pm

As a Hastings alum, I think Ms. Napolitano will make a wonderful commencement speaker and will do fine job of welcoming hundreds of proud young graduates into the open arms of the EDD office.

Seriously though, illegal aliens are not citizens, are not legally here and Ms. Gallardo can pound sand.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 6:28 pm

You don't get to choose your commencement speaker and she doesn't get to choose the laws she took an oath to uphold and enforce.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 6:44 pm

"Undocumented citizens"? Man, that is rich. These cretins are illegal aliens you know, common criminals in need of deportation by federal law.

Posted by BajaRat on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

Of the kind of racist attitudes that mass deportation policies encourage. No human being is illegal - in fact, making a "status" of an individual, absent an action, was ruled unconstitutional in the United States in Robinson v. California (1962). It's amazing what you can learn in law school.

Posted by Matthew Denney Class of 2015 on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

But it wasn't "absent an action." The action was their illegal crossing of the border. It's amazing what you can learn from common sense.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 6:22 pm

The fact that an individual doesn't have proper documentation papers at any given time doesn't mean they illegally crossed the border as an adult. Being undocumented is a status, and not a crime. There are so many reasons why someone could be undocumented! Maybe they were brought across the border as a child. Maybe their papers were taken by an exploitative employer, etc. And even for those who "broke" the law, I see nothing wrong with doing so when the system is broken. People have to live.

Posted by Matthew Denney Class of 2015 on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 7:24 pm

Entering the country illegally is the same whether as a child or as an adult. You want to blame someone for crossing the border illegally, blame the parents not the system.

And don't give me this: "maybe their papers were taken by an exploitative employer". That's utter bullshit and you know it (if you don't know it, you should get a refund on your tuition). Being here legally and not physically having the papers is a hell of a lot different than being here illegally. If that was the case, anyone who lost their passport would be SOL.

By your logic, if my healthcare here is inadequate, I should be able to sneak across Canada's border to take advantage of their health care system. By your logic, a Guatemalan whose life sucks in Guatemala should be able to sneak into Mexico for a better life. Go do some research into how Mexico treats illegals on their southern border. Then come back and explain how they can do what they do and then have the audacity to complain about our border policies.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 8:22 pm

If you saw the movie Sicko, you know that thousands of Americans have gone to Canada for healthcare. They were never treated with the same hatred and vitriol as immigrants in the United States. Even today, Americans are traveling to Mexico to obtain birth control, and I've heard nothing in the Mexican media about this being a problem. In reality, racism is the underlying motivation for people who support the current American laws which lead to mass deportation. Jist like Jim Crow, it should be called out for what it is.

Posted by Matthew Denney Class of 2015 on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

" In reality, racism is the underlying motivation for people who support the current American laws which lead to mass deportation."

Matthew holds the views that he does since he thinks he will be an elite lawyer, and won't have to compete with "undocumented citizens" for employment.

We need to make him more like Marcos, who supports illegal immigration of unskilled people, but is terrified of H-1B visa holders, since he will probably lose his IT job to an H-1B visa holder at some point.

To assist Matthew, we need to pass a law that any graduate of a foreign law school is automatically admitted to the United States, and is automatically deemed to have passed the California bar exam. (India alone graduates 250,000 new lawyers per year.) Mathew obviously will support this proposal, since it would be racist not to.

After all, if American citizens in construction and many service industries have to compete with immigrants (driving wages and available jobs sharply downwards), it's only fair that lawyers have to compete with massive numbers of immigrants as well.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 10:17 pm

I come from a family of white-presenting California farm workera. But my mom lived on a reservation in New Mexico. My great uncle in Carlsbad NM was well known for representing poor workers in employment disputes. My family is poor. Period. I don't give an f*** about whether my support for immigrants impacts future jobs. The struggle for equality is far more important. To think otherwise is to be ignorant. Seriously, look up my name with "NLG" and read my statement. I'm proud to be part f a movement that fights against oppressive policies.

Posted by Matthew Denney Class of 2015 on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 12:19 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 1:59 am

But arguing for "respect for the law" is maybe not such a good argument for arguing for a restrictive immigration policy in a country that stole California and much of the Southwest from Mexico.

Apparently, when you win a war, that gives your nationality the right to dominate an area and restrict who lives there for eternity?....

I believe it's important to recognize the distinct history that California and many other parts of the United States have in relation to other parts of the world. To use nationalist rhetoric in an attempt to determine "who's allowed in" not only ignores this history of American wars abroad, but it also ignores the history of a multicultural, immigrant friendly United States.

Although the United States has always battled a litany of racists and bigots, our country has generally been one of the most pro-immigrant countries in the world. We are a "melting pot." We've always accepted European immigrants as part of the American way of life, and used immigration to create a unique culture.

This is why simply justifying current immigration policy under the guise of "the law" is racist. Many laws are racist. Jim Crow was racist, for example. Laws all around the United States which prevented minorities from owning homes in certain neighborhoods were racist. If a black person bought a home in a subdivision that contained an anti-integration covenant as per 1946, they were violating the law. A 1948 Supreme Court decision (Shelley v. Kramer) changed that.

I don't expect mass progress from the Supreme Court on immigration policy. But I do know when current laws and policy are wrong. To argue that simply violating an unjust law justifies criminal punishment is simplistic and ignorant, and as a lawyer in the near future, I plan on always cutting against such arguments.

Posted by Matthew Denney Class of 2015 on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 2:48 am

apply equally to all races. I know white illegals and, if they are caught, they are deported just the same.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 4:42 am

Like Justin Bieber, right???

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 6:05 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 7:33 am

"I don't give an f*** about whether my support for immigrants impacts future jobs."

That's because you don't think **your** future jobs are at risk from illegal immigration. Start importing ten of thousands of Indian lawyers, and I suspect that your position will change.

So, Matthew, should we have any immigration laws at all? Should we simply have completely open borders?

If you know anything about the Third World, about a billion people in the Third World would move to the United States if there were no barriers to moving to the US.

Is that acceptable? Golden Gate Park would make a great place for a favela to accommodate some of them.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 3:42 am

Nobody real thinks there should be unlimited, unfettered immigration.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 4:44 am

Actually, I think Matthew is enough of an ideologue that he does believe that.

And since he "doesn't give an f*** about whether his support for immigrants impacts future jobs", he is utterly unconcerned about what millions of illegal immigrants do to the wages, job prospects, and income of low-skilled American citizens. Fuck 'em.

I mean seriously - if you are going to not enforce the immigration laws, why not simply get rid of them? After all, the moment you set foot on US soil, you become an "undocumented citizen", according to the SFBG.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 5:00 am

Thousands does NOT equal millions. If an 12 million Americans went into Canada for free healthcare, you don't think there'd be deportations? Plus they're not staying there are they?

Yes, Americans will go across the border for cheap prescription drugs. Of course the Mexican media doesn't say anything. The tourists are a major revenue stream for the Mexican border towns and they stay for the day. And again, they're not staying there are they?

The laws that we are following only lead to the "mass deportation" of ILLEGAL immigrants. Are we deporting every Latino citizen we see? Are we deporting Latinos with green cards?

I also noticed you glossed over how I called you on your bullshit about "how some illegal could be undocumented because some evil employer took their papers". And did you do your research on Mexico's illegal immigrant policy on their southern border? Are the Mexicans racist for deporting Hondurans, Guatemalans, and El Salvadorans? It should be called out for what it is.

Jesus if these are the best arguments you can muster to support your case, I feel sorry for whatever future clients hire you.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 10:25 pm

legal citizens.

It is a crime to be in this nation illegally even if your original border crossing was legal (e.g. you entered on a tourist visa).

You are making this way more complex than it really is

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

We lived in a world where things were so black and white. The reality is that the United States enforced an immigration system that restricts immigration based on green card quotas. To pretend that this doesn't impact people of different countries differently is absurd.

Furthermore, to pretend that anti-immigrant sentiment isn't always based on an ideal of protecting some kind of vague white American identity is also absurd. The United States has always counterposed "good" whites with "bad" whites or with whatever immigrant it chose to scapegoat.

Immigration law changes! It is not a fixed thing! Sometimes, it is designed in a manner which disproportionately impact immigrants from a certain area of the world. In the mid-1800s, it was the Irish, post 1880s it was anyone from Asia, etc.

To defend our current immigration policy on the grounds that "laws must always be followed" is nothing less than to be apathetic to the racism that still exists in American society. To pretend that our current immigration policy is racial neutral goes to the height of incredulously.....

Posted by Matthew Denney Class of 2015 on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 2:34 am

any law you do not like. Until then, our current immigration policy has the full power of law and deportations are appropriate.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 4:41 am

When was the last time that one of the Residential Builders Association undocumented Irish construction workers were deported?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 7:30 am

But obviously you have to be caught for that to happen.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 7:51 am

So this is your idea of debating Matthew? Make specious arguments in support of your side, then when they are debunked and rebutted, ignore it, and just scream "racism"? I'm sure you have a great future with John Burris.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 11:51 am

Among people who scream the word "illegal!" It's no great stretch of the imagination to recognize that those people are motivated by the need to "other" an entire group of people in order to justify their own fears about society. If you look at what happened in Arizona with SB 1070, the entire process of passing that bill was basically a political campaign against the Mexican-American community there. That's why the state also decided to actually *ban* Mexican-American studies programs.

Furthermore, why are the "minutemen" vigilante groups concentrated on the southern border and not the northern border?

Luckily in California, our state government is usually much better than Arizona and the national government on immigration issues. But it's interesting to see how people on this site are willing to use "the law" to justify pretty much any policy. I would hope that most Americans willingness to fight unjust laws would go alittle deeper; the Civil Rights movement in this country would never have happened without massive civil disobedience - millions of people breaking the "law" of the time.

Posted by Matthew Denney Class of 2015 on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

Mathews use of language was documented well before he was born. The attempts to change language and use code words instead of the actual correct words are an attempt to brow beat incorrect thought out of us.

The new left wing intellectualism is to close off debate with howls of racism and the use of code words. And from his latest post, sweeping and moronic generalizations that probably worked well in the narrow confines of his education.

from 1984


'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we're not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there's no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It's merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won't be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,' he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. 'Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?'


Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

As is its evil stepchild, identity politics AKA card-playing

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

Because it implies that you'd hate a white illegal, but not a Hispanic legal.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

How many people in comparison try to illegally cross the Canadian border vs. the Mexican border? 100-1? 1,000-1 10,000-1? Also, you know who else tries to get across the Mexican-American border? Drug cartels. These are some of the most evil, ruthless, and sadistic criminals on the planet. It makes all the sense in the world to try to arrest any of them trying to cross the border.

And don't try to equate giving illegal aliens full rights to the Civil Rights movement. Blacks in the South were our fellow CITIZENS who were being denied their Constitutional rights. These are foreign nationals who illegally came across our borders.

And before you start screaming "racism" again. You'd have a point if illegal aliens from other countries weren't deported when they were caught. The reason why Latinos are deported the most often is because they are the majority of illegal immigrants to this country.

This is getting monotonous. Every time your argument gets demolished you skip over it and try to come up with some other half-assed idiocy to make your point. Again, I pity any future client you may have. Although on the plus side, if you're in criminal defense, your acquittal rate would be horrendous. So there's that to look forward to.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

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