Undocumented Cal State students fear Border Patrol’s participation in career fair

Students at the California State University, San Marcos staged a demonstration Thursday protesting the inclusion of Border Patrol representatives at the school’s career fair.

Sociology professor Marisol Clark-Ibáñez tweeted a photo Thursday evening showing students holding signs with messages such as “Stop tearing us apart” and “CSUSM: A Safe Space?” in front of the table advertising positions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), while a uniformed officer records them on a cell phone.

The next day, she sent an open letter to Career Center Director Pamela Wells explaining that, as faculty advisor to the Standing Together As oNe Dream (STAND) student group, she became alarmed upon arriving on campus Thursday morning to find a CBP vehicle and three police cars (all empty) parked near the student union.

“My heart froze because I immediately became concerned for our students’ safety and wellbeing,” she recalls. “When I parked in the parking garage, I texted Julio (STAND president) and let him know what I saw, ask where he was, and if he (and others) were okay.”

After determining that the law enforcement vehicles were on campus for the career fair taking place that day, Julio “gathered students to assemble an impromptu protest to let Border Patrol know their practices in our community were unjust and detrimental,” during which both sides took photos and videos in case the demonstration got out of hand.

[RELATED: Student petition drives Border Patrol to withdraw from UC Irvine career fair]

“As a professor, I believe the students have a right to voice their opinion and to do so in the relative safety of their own university,” Clark-Ibáñez states. “However, the Border Patrol officer’s response of taking photographs of protesters was quite an intimidating tactic, given some of those protesting were undocumented students.

“Research shows that interactions immigration enforcement, deportation, and detention have powerful and immediate negative effects on mental health,” she continues, adding, “The visceral fear and trauma of seeing Border Patrol on our campus by our students cannot be underestimated” [emphasis in original].

Clark-Ibáñez stops short of calling for the CBP’s banishment from future career fairs, as has been the case at other schools in the state, but offers two recommendations for making the career fair “the meaningful experience it was meant to be for all students” in the future.

First, she asserts that “where law enforcement agencies choose to park has a chilling effect on students,” and advises “requiring them to park with all the other visitors to campus.”

In addition, she asks the Career Center to implement “protocols about student engagement for career fairs by law enforcement agencies and Homeland Security entities” to prevent officers from filming future demonstrations.

“Yesterday was a compelling example of students’ critical thinking and a social justice response to inequality. However, non-campus entities seemingly tried to intimidate students as they exercised their voice,” Clark-Ibáñez concludes. “Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lack of CSUSM leadership at the event (from the career fair organizers present and administrators who arrived) to advocate directly on behalf of our students to the guests who were engaged in the intimidation” [emphasis in original].

CSUSM Associate Vice President Dang Chonwerawong, who supervises the Career Center, told Campus Reform that the university is aware of the matter, saying, “Ms. Wells and I will be meeting with Dr. Clark-Ibanez very soon to discuss her concerns as well as concerns from all parties involved.”

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