I first heard about the encounter between UA students and border patrol officers when the sound of the girls’ screams came around the corner. I was walking home at the time, and I saw a group of about ten girls were following two men in matching uniforms, but I couldn’t tell who they were exactly. “Murder patrol, murder patrol” they yelled in unison, then one girl began to yell the names of people who had been killed by border agents. My attention was immediately drawn to the scene- and I deserted my journey home to watch how it all played out. They walked all the way to where the agents had parked their cars, not saying a word the entire time they were followed. When it was all over, I felt ashamed.
Being Hispanic I do feel resentment toward border agents as they are a symbol of an institution that allows for systematized racism, but that is a topic for a different article. The agents who came onto our campus were merely there to give information to students pursuing a career with the border patrol. The agents were here with the sole purpose to help the members of the student body, not to arrest anybody. They meant no harm, which means that they deserved none in turn. For justice to come for members of the Hispanic community that have been harmed by border agents, we must keep our heads above the rest. Actions like those that occurred during career days invalidate the movement because they are unfounded and unorganized, not everyone can understand the intense emotion that was behind the yells of each girl as they followed the agents. They were not wrong for standing tall, it was simply the wrong time. In the words of Michelle Obama, “when they go low, we go high”.
Considering the circumstances surrounding the protest of the USBP that unfortunately left a stain on The University of Arizona, it has become apparent that this case of student activism is a transplant of the demagoguery that we see all too often on other institutions across the United States. Frankly, insofar as the video has shown us, we witness the loudest voices on campus that insist the worst of the USBP, and while the sentiment may hold some truth to it, they had disrupted the learning environment and refused to yield an inch to those that were not troubled by the presence of Border Patrol agents. The community outrage that this incident has caused is not surprising, because while it is part of the larger debate on freedom of speech and when and where it applies, at the same time, it is unacceptable and un-American for a mob that does not speak on behalf of this university or it’s student body, to intimidate or shame its opponents and dictate who the rest of us decide to welcome to campus in the future. As a student, I am grateful to the community and peers that have spoken out in a period of extreme school-wide apathy. Sometimes hot-topic issues remain one-sided and a lack of differing opinions makes for an incredibly dull conversation, assuming there is one to begin with.
The recent protest over the presence of Border Patrol on campus in a career booth and the subsequent University response is counter productive to the cause of reform and campus openness. Many students at the UA are currently taking classes in criminal justice and public policy with the goal of joining the Border Patrol after graduation, and the highly emotional and frankly misdirected protest towards office workers associated with the Border Patrol just helps create an atmosphere of “Us versus Them”. By dividing each argument between the good and the bad, it leaves no middle ground. Either the Border Patrol is a neo-nazi fascist Storm-trooper brigade designed by the devil himself, or it is an infallible defense force for the people that can not be questioned. If we engage in discussion with those who are interested in joining the Border Patrol and other agencies and open them up to the complaints being leveled, we can change the whole landscape through constructive discussions. Otherwise we are just encouraging the digging in of armed political camps, and ruining a perfect opportunity for us to address the successes and failures of our government policy towards immigration.
I really don’t see the big deal in border patrol being on campus. It’s not like they are here arresting people left, right and center. The controversial day they were here was to speak at a job fair and at a club. Whether or not you like it, there are students interested in these jobs after graduation. Would you harass an FBI agent until they got off campus? Their jobs are just as controversial, and I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t. Tucson isn’t Nogales and border patrol isn’t really part of the culture here. It would be horrendous if they came specifically with the intent of causing trouble, but they never have to my knowledge. If you have issues with them coming onto campus, there are better ways to protest their presence. They have just as much of a right to be here as all of the crazy Jesus preachers on campus. You don’t have to like their job or what they do, but at least respect the fact they are human beings who are here to do the job they were invited to do - which is to speak to students at a job fair.
Follow the Daily Wildcat on Twitter