Border Patrol union VP greeted by campus conservative groups and protesters
Silent protesters sporting shirts reading “U.S. Murder Patrol” greeted a representative of the largest U.S. Customs and Border Protection union ahead of his engagement with conservative groups on campus Thursday, April 4. The protesters did not identify themselves as being from one group, rather calling themselves a community.
Silent protesters sporting shirts reading “U.S. Murder Patrol” greeted a representative of the largest U.S. Customs and Border Protection union ahead of his engagement with conservative groups on campus Thursday night.
Art del Cueto, a Border Patrol agent and vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, was invited to speak by the University of Arizona chapter of the College Republicans in the Santa Cruz room of the Student Union Memorial Center.
According to the President of the UA College Republicans, Cassandra Bauserman, the event was a chance for conservatives on campus to ask question of a figure tied closely to border security, an issue President Donald Trump made a key plank in his campaign.
“It’s a huge hot topic with Trump right now,” Bauserman said. “We wanted the members to be active in talking about that and having a healthy discussion.”
The engagement came just three weeks after a March 19 incident between a UA student and Border Patrol personnel. Bauserman said del Cueto’s invitation was not extended until after news of the incident was public. However, she denied the invitation was meant as a way to prod or upset liberal constituencies on campus opposed to the presence of del Cueto, and insisted del Cueto’s presence was not something to fear.
“Personally, it bothers me that they're saying that Border Patrol shouldn’t be on campus because they feel unsafe,” Bauserman said. “I feel unsafe without them being on campus. I don’t think it’s fair for men in uniform to be pushed off because one small minority group feels offended.”
Protesters arrived just before del Cueto was scheduled to speak, most donning t-shirts with the logo “Murder Patrol” in place of the Border Patrol logo. Many had placards taped to their back displaying the names of people who died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The group of protesters did not wish to be identified or tied to any one group, but instead indicated they were “a community” and did not wish to speak with media.
The event, advertised on social media as open to the public, was later limited to members of conservative campus groups and RSVP guests. First Amendment monitors from the university were also on hand inside and outside the event.
Proceedings kicked off inside with the Pledge of Allegiance and a rendition of the National Anthem. While members inside stood, protesters outside kneeled.
For his part, del Cueto started off his speech by letting the audience know “a little about himself, about what’s going on with the border.” He explained he entered the Border Patrol labor union because he “didn’t like bullies” and how he integrated himself in Trump’s campaign for President.
After explaining his background and some of his political perspectives, del Cueto took questions. One member of the audience asked del Cueto why the Border Patrol has a negative perception in some communities.
Del Cueto offered, in addition to skewed media coverage, the perception could be chalked up to how children are raised in Hispanic homes. Del Cueto, who was born in Mexico, asked the audience if they had Hispanic family members.
“Do you remember when they misbehaved, your aunt or your grandma, sometimes your mom would say, ‘Aye! La policia!’” he said. “Do you guys remember that? I think that’s just the way a lot of Hispanic families push it.”
In regard to the March 19 incident between two agents and a UA student, del Cueto didn’t directly address the now-viral confrontation. Instead, del Cueto commented on the varying responses the incident elicited from various UA organizations and groups, including one issued by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.
“I looked at it and was like ‘Oh, I know how that works.’ It’s not the UofA students, it’s somebody that got together and pounded the table that day and said, ‘we’re elected to this position, and we’re gonna say this',” del Cueto said.
He also touched on his disappointment in President Dr. Robert Robbins' initial statement regarding the confrontation and noted his disappointment in the president’s sentiments.
“I did get upset when President Robbins sent out that letter,” he said. “I got a little hot with that first letter. And then we all know what happened there, I made a bigger deal out of it and said ‘there should be an investigation.'”
Del Cueto ended the engagement by contrasting the approach of the protesters outside the engagement with the actions of the UA student who confronted the agents.
“They’re protesting out there right now. Are they doing their protest legally? Are they doing it correctly? Are they harming us? No, they are making their voices heard,” he said.
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