The dining hall workers had been at Pomona College for years, some even decades. For a few, it was the only job they held since moving to United States.
Then late last year, administrators at the college delivered letters to dozens of the longtime employees asking them to show proof of legal residency, saying that an internal review had turned up problems in their files.
Seventeen workers could not produce documents showing that they were legally able to work in the United States. So on Dec. 2, they lost their jobs.
Now, the campus is deep into a consuming debate over what it means to be a college with liberal ideals, with some students, faculty and alumni accusing the administration and the board of directors of betraying the college’s ideals. The renewed discussion over immigration and low-wage workers has animated class discussions, late-night dorm conversations and furious back and forth on alumni Listservs. Some alumni are now boycotting donating to the college, while some students are considering discouraging prospective freshmen from enrolling.