NEWS

UA student confronts Border Patrol agents, video goes viral

29223_a9716architectureoldmainheathernewberryrgbf

UPDATE: In an email addressed to students and staff, University of Arizona President Robert Robbins issued a statement Friday afternoon regarding an incident between a UA student and Border Patrol personnel on Tuesday, March 19.

Robbin's told the UA communuty that "providing a safe environment for students to pursue their education is my top priority. Ensuring safety can take many forms, including providing an environment where students feel the university will support them."

While acknowledging the UA's policies regarding student safety and security would be reviewed, he assured the student population his administration would always protect student information, including immigration status and would work with law enforcement to handle campus disruptions.

"At the same time," Robbins said, "all members of our campus community should be able to engage with a variety of viewpoints and positions and express themselves as well. These are fundamental constitutional rights from which we all benefit, and they are essential to providing an exceptional university education. That requires we respect others’ right to speech and that they respect ours."

This is a developing story. Be sure to visit the DailyWildcat.com or follow our social media pages on Twitter and Facebook for more updates.

A complicated picture is emerging of a confrontation between a University of Arizona student and two U.S. Border Patrol agents during a club meeting in the Modern Languages Building on Tuesday, March 19.

Video circulating online on right-wing and far-right-wing media websites appears to show a young woman named Denisse confronting two Border Patrol agents giving a presentation to the Criminal Justice Association, a UA club.

In an earlier interview with the Daily Wildcat, Denisse said she "started chanting, disrupting that space until they left. Literally walked them all the way to their cars until they left.” 

          RELATED: UA students protest presence of Border Patrol agents on campus

Additional video of the incident confirms a group of students followed the agents out to their parked vehicle.

Luisa Pinto, a major in criminal justice studies and president of the Criminal Justice Association, said that her club's and the agents' First Amendment rights were violated.

"I believe that it wasn't her words, it was her actions," Pinto said. "Her right to free speech only goes so far. She has every right to scream and yell all she wants outside the building, but the moment she's inside a building and interfering with our education ... our rights were violated."

In the video, Denisse can be heard telling Pinto and others that the club "should be more conscious of other students on this campus and the students that need to be safe on this campus and maybe find a place outside."

Eventually, Pinto and another member of the club contacted the University of Arizona Police Department. Pinto said this was an effort to help diffuse tension.

However, in the video Denisse responds by telling Pinto, "of course, white woman calling the police, white woman calling the police."

Pinto said she understands the need for safe spaces for undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival students, however, she insisted her club has no political affiliation or bent and the meeting was little different from others the group has held.

"The Border Patrol was invited to attend our meeting to tell us their job and hiring process and basically what every other law enforcement agency we invite to come talk talks about," Pinto said.

The club's website said it strives to "educate students on careers in the criminal justice field as well as familiarize them with what they will encounter once in the field."

How the incident started is still in question. 

In her earlier interview, Denisse said she had "walked out of class and saw two Border Patrol agents in the hallway in Modern Languages, and I was like, 'You're supposed to be at the career fair that ended an hour ago.'"

Pinto, who arrived to the meeting after Denisse had begun filming, began speaking to Denisse and tells a similar, but different, story.

"What she had told me was she was walking in the hallway, and she saw the two Border Patrol agents going into that classroom," Pinto said. "They did not engage with her in any sort of way; they did not say one word to her."

The Daily Wildcat reached out to the Border Patrol, UAPD and the Dean of Students Office for comment. This story will be updated with those responses.

The incident, along with the detention of a family on Tucson's south side Tuesday, was the impetus for a student-led protest on Wednesday, with protesters displaying signs and chanting anti-Border Patrol slogans.

This is a developing story. Follow the DailyWildcat.com and our social media pages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for updates.

*Editor's Note: Per her request, the Daily Wildcat has chosen not to publish the last name of a source within this article due to privacy and safety concerns. 


Follow Eddie Celaya on Twitter



Share this article