University of Arizona students protested U.S. Border Patrol’s presence on campus during Spring Career Days on Wednesday, March 20.
Denisse, a Mexican-American studies major, organized the protest.
“Yesterday, Border Patrol was invited to campus to recruit at the career fair,” Denisse said. “They were also invited by the criminal justice club. I 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.' So then I was like, 'Get out,' and started chanting, disrupting that space until they left. Literally walked them all the way to their cars until they left.”
Denisse said there was a connection between the presence of Border Patrol and a recent detention that happened within miles of campus. A state trooper stopped a vehicle and requested backup from Border Patrol and ended up arresting three people suspected of being in the country without proper documentation, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
“I knew Border Patrol was on campus, and around four miles south of campus, an entire family was detained, and they took a 12-year-old child, even though they had family members and community members present,” Denisse said. “You allow Border Patrol on campus, and a few hours later, a few miles from campus, a whole family is detained on a routine stop and taken.”
Ana, a protester and political science major, said the presence of Border Patrol on campus has been contested for years.
“Prior to us being students here as well, there were efforts pushed by MEChA [Moviemiento Estudiantil Chicano/a Atzlan] and MSUA [Marginalized Students of the University of Arizona] to get Border Patrol off campus, and then those efforts were picked up by students like myself, and they haven't been met,” Ana said. “It does get iffy, because this is a public institution and technically you are not allowed to kick anyone out of this institution, but there are efforts to try to prevent them from coming.”
Abra McAndrew, Assistant Vice Provost with Student Engagement, said the career days Border Patrol attended are open to any employer in Tucson.
“Students at the UA, they want to change the world,” McAndrew said. “It's great that they're trying to have an impact here. I think that the impact had not been heard or felt by the Border Patrol in a way that would indicate to them that there's a reason to change what they're doing.”
McAndrew also said students can look at who is attending the career fair on the Handshake website.
Ana said the university needs to reflect that immigrant students are welcome on campus.
“They tend to market that they're a Hispanic-serving institution and a Native Indigenous serving institution,” Vanessa, a protester and law major, said. “If you're going to be selling that message, then you need to stand behind what that message actually means.”
Ana said a petition with over 500 signatures had previously been distributed across campus. Back in 2017, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students expressed their concerns to Associated Students of the University of Arizona, the UA’s student body government, about the presence of Border Patrol on campus.
The same year, UA DACA students brought up the same issue with the Arizona Board of Regents. They proposed a list of demands on behalf of DACA students, which included the complete removal of federal immigration authorities on campus.
At-Large Senator Rocque Perez said ASUA today is a completely different administration from 2017 and this issue has been considered multiple times. Perez intends to introduce new legislation to ASUA next week.
“As a senator, I will discuss new legislation to firstly shed light on this issue and secondly how ASUA can work with campus partners to make the educational environment a more safe and considerate place, especially for our DACA students,” he said.
On Thursday, March 21, ASUA Student Body President Natalynn Masters issued a statement stressing "the importance of notifying students ... in advance of visits by USBP" and stating that ASUA has an responsibility to "protect, support and speak out for all Wildcats" including DACA students and undocumented students. The statement was signed by Matthew Rein, ASUA executive vice president, and Kate Rosenstengel, ASUA administrative vice president, as well.
"Every single UA student, faculty, and staff deserves and has the right to feel safe within our campus community," the statement said. "ASUA will work with the UA Administration as well as the entire campus community to take the necessary steps to ensure all Wildcats feel safe and supported on campus. These steps include assessing changes to UA policy and procedures that better support our students."
Vanessa said the efforts to get border patrol off campus aren’t newly founded.
“If we were able to gather this many people in two to three hours … people still want this,” she said. “This is something that's necessary for the safety of students, and it's not something that's going to stop. It's something that needs to get done.”
*Editor's Note: Per their request, the Daily Wildcat has chosen not to publish the last names of three sources within this article due to privacy and safety concerns.
Follow Priya Jandu on Twitter