More than a dozen students protested the appearance of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the annual CSUSM Job Fair on April 6.
Student organizations including Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA), Standing Together As oNe Dream (STAND) and Feminists Unite protested and handed out “Border Reality Checkpoint” flyers, which organizers said educated the public about Border Patrol agents’ misuse of power.
“It awakens the [CSUSM] administration every time that we do an action … We hope this will further more stricter policies on the Job Fair for the safety of students,” said MECha Co-Chair Selena Arellano.
CBP agents at the job fair declined to answer questions. Contacted by email, Border Patrol Public Affairs Specialist Gregory Moore said that agents came to campus to recruit.
Moore also said that since the agents are federal law enforcement officers, “if they witness illegal or illicit activities they are bound to act.”
Protesters said the “Border Reality Checkpoint” flyers, which were based on the SouthernBorder.org website, refer to the immigration checkpoints that Border Patrol uses to detain undocumented people and illustrate the unjust and violent approaches to detaining.
The flyer stated, “It is important to do a background check on this agency so that we are aware of the threat they pose to the safety of students…”
According to the Reality Checkpoint flyer, more than 50 people have been killed by CBP agents since 2010 and no agent has been convicted.
“We are providing information that [CBP] are not telling the people that they’re trying to recruit,” said STAND Co-Chair Jose Ramirez.
When CBP came to campus last year, a small group of students organized a protest. The university did not give notice about CBP presence and CBP agents parked outside Cesar Chavez circle where their vehicles were highly visible. This time, CBP agents parked farther away.
This year, the university sent an email prior to the job fair informing students about CBP’s participation. The email contained information on what students should do if detained by CBP officials. It said students should contact University Police Department (UPD), which would act as liaison and will work with CSU Office of General Counsel to “provide guidance, references and resources.”
“We recognize that some individuals may not be comfortable with the presence of Border Patrol on campus even in a recruitment capacity. That’s why it was important to us to communicate to the University community in advance that the Border Patrol would be on campus. However, we also recognize that we have a responsibility to expose interested students to a full breadth of career and job opportunities,” said Associate Vice President for Student Engagement & Equity Bridget Blanshan in the email.
Protesters said sending the notice was not enough. Some said that although the university told students in advance, Border Patrol agents’ presence still intimidates students.
“It’s still causing fear and panic for students and their parents because [this is] a commuter school, so a lot of them get dropped off,” said protester Christina Flores.
Several faculty and staff also came to support the student protesters.
“They can have people in shirts rather than uniform, body armor and guns,” said Communication professor, Dr. Antonio De la Garza, who joined the protest.
Chief Diversity Officer Joe-Joe McManus, who watched the protests, said, “I understand the concern and the fear that happens particularly when they come in uniform and armed, that’s a concern of mine.”
One protester held a sign depicting border agents taking photos of protesters at the 2016 Job Fair; no photographs were taken this year.
Julio Villa, one of this year’s protesters, said that he does not know what the CBP did with the photographs.
“We asked them on why they were taking [photos] the university got involved and they said that it was for their security purposes,” said Villa of last year’s protest.
Moore said that agents were not ordered to take photos last year and might have sent them to their superiors to seek advice on how to proceed. He said he does not know whether or not the pictures were deleted.
STAND’s Ramirez said, “This is our second home, we don’t want Border Patrol in our home. The administration needs to understand that as a home we need to protect it.”
Information about the Border Patrol can be found at www.cbp.gov.