U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Withdraws from Career Fair Amid Student Protests
Due to backlash from UC Irvine students, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has quietly withdrawn from partaking in the upcoming Fall Career Fair on Oct. 22. Many Anteaters criticized the Career Center’s decision to host CBP in the first place, citing it as insensitive towards the undocumented student population at UC Irvine.
Upon first learning of CBP’s scheduled involvement at the Career Fair last Sunday night, Associated Students of UC Irvine (ASUCI) President Parshan Khosravi immediately penned an email to the Career Center requesting their invitation to CBP be canceled.
“Organizations like the US Customs and Border Patrol are the organizations that are tasked with various roles including targeting Undocumented Communities, which is against the nature of our campus’s values for welcoming communities regarding their background,” said Khosravi. “We cannot expect undocumented students to not be unhappy or frustrated, that’s only natural.”
While Khosravi understood the chances of CBP’s appearance being canceled altogether were unlikely, the ASUCI President’s hope that the Career Center would at least acknowledge the message it was sending towards undocumented students was similarly met with disappointment.
“This message right now is saying that undocumented students are not welcome,” said Khosravi. “That’s the type of message that I do not want to see as someone who is a student on this campus, as someone who is a student leader on this campus, and someone who believes in the values of our campus are inclusivity and a safe space.”
With a workforce of over 60,000 employees, CBP is currently the largest federal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Homeland Security, and the world. Tasked with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, CBP has endured intense public scrutiny in recent years. Amongst the criticisms are several allegations of inappropriate use of lethal force, internal corruption, a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability for hundreds of shootings by agents.
As reported by Richard Gonzales of National Public Radio (NPR) earlier this year, a scathing, new government report condemned the CBP for its corruption, stating that “True levels of corruptions . . . are not known.” CBP’s lack of transparency was also lambasted, as CBP “did almost nothing to inform the public” when the usage of force by agents resulted in the deaths or serious bodily injuries of migrants.
According to the Southern Border Communities Coalition, which contains the regions of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, 40 individuals have been killed by CBP since 2010, as of September 1, 2015.
“There is a long history of fear among the immigrant community that emerges from federal and state policies and agencies such as the US Custom and Border Protection. There has been a lot of violence against undocumented individuals and millions of families have been separated inhumanly. Students have the right to feel the way they do,” said Dreamers coordinator Ana Miriam Barragan. “For many, the fear has turned into resentment, anger, frustration, and more.”
Amy Yu, a fourth-year psychology and social behavior and criminology double major, was also quick to take action after learning about CBP’s attendance. On Monday morning, Yu and a colleague immediately visited the Career Center, where they voiced their concerns to Career Center Director Suzanne Helbig and On-Campus Recruitment Specialist Kelly Swanholm.
According to Yu, who mentioned that undocumented students may experience trauma and discomfort during the meeting, Helbig and Swanholm held steadfast in their decision to have CBP at the fair, noting that the primary goal of the Career Center was to provide fair job opportunities for all students.
For Helbig, the inclusion of CBP serves the Career Center’s primary mission to bring in a diverse array of potential employers to appeal to as wide an array of students as possible.
“We care about and value all students. We have a diverse student body made up of individuals with many wonderful talents and personal values,” said Helbig. “To serve all students, we bring employers to campus and let students use their own judgement to decide which ones fit their skills, interests, and values.”
Regarding the backlash from students, Helbig was nonplussed, stating, “Our students are passionate and are going to change the world! I am not surprised that they share [Yu’s] views.”
With her trip to the Career Center proving to be fruitless, Yu took her battle to the Internet by submitting a petition asking for CBP to be removed from the Career Fair.
In an open letter addressed to UCI Administration, the Career Center and the UCI community, Yu wrote: “Bringing US Customs and Border Protection to UCI blatantly disregards the physical, emotional and mental well-being of students on campus.” She asked readers to stand in solidarity with undocumented students at UCI by signing.
Since first being published Monday afternoon, the petition has garnered over 659 signatures before being closed by Yu following the announcement of CBP’s resignation from the Career Fair.
Yu explained that the petition was created to bring more awareness to yet another example of the university’s failure to address the concerns of undocumented students, pointing out that it was hypocritical of UC Irvine to claim to be a safe and welcoming environment.
“For a really, really, really long time, undocumented students have been voicing [their] concerns and our needs for resources and more resources in this community and on-campus, but again and again UCI administration has ignored [their] demands and concerns,” said Yu. “They have completely disregarded [their] voices. This is just one example of many in which they show that they didn’t really care about undocumented students.”
Prior to CBP’s announcement that they were pulling out of the Career Fair Tuesday morning, Yu and other students had already conferred with Sherwynn Umali, the Associate Dean of Students for Student Life and Leadership, on how to demonstrate peacefully while abiding by campus policies.
“CBP withdrawing from the UC Irvine Career Fair is a first step of victory for the undocumented student community on campus. The next step is making sure that an event like this shouldn’t and wouldn’t happen again,” said Yu. “UC Irvine Administration needs to recognize that ignoring student voices and concerns is unacceptable and disrespectful on a campus dedicated to providing safety and equal opportunities for all students.”