LOS ANGELES – A private religious college in San Bernardino that refused to allow a student to enroll because of her immigration status is violating federal civil rights law, according to the ACLU of Southern California.
On Thursday, the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) sent a letter to Loma Linda University warning officials that the school’s policy against allowing students who are covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, to enroll is unlawful. Introduced in 2012, DACA is a special federal program that shields some young immigrants from deportation.
The letter was prompted by Veronica Velasquez, who was notified in April 2016 that she had been accepted into the school’s graduate program for physical therapy. Eight days later, Loma Linda University abruptly notified Velasquez that she would not be allowed to enroll because of her DACA status.
“Loma Linda University’s policy is not only ill-advised but also unlawful,” said Katie Traverso, a staff attorney with ACLU SoCal. “Federal civil rights law makes it clear that Loma Linda University can’t discriminate against students based on their immigration status.”
ACLU SoCal letter also raised concerns about the university’s assertions in an email to Velasquez that DACA students are prohibited from obtaining professional licenses and will have difficulty obtaining financial assistance. In January, a new California law took effect that requires licensing boards to consider applicants regardless of immigration status.  Whether or not a student can easily afford to enroll should not preclude Loma Linda University from opening its doors to qualified students.
Loma Linda’s policy does not reflect DACA policies at other public and private colleges across California. For example, both the University of California and California State University systems accept DACA students, as do private universities around the state.
Velasquez, 23, who is Filipino, came to the U.S. as a child. She attended community college and is now a senior at California State University, San Bernardino. She will graduate in June with a degree in kinesiology, and plans to attend graduate school at another private university in the fall.
Read ACLU SoCal’s letter
Contact: Tony Marcano 213.977.5242, tmarcano@aclusocal.org