ICE Recruitment at Fresno State Career Fair Prompts Protest

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Image of protest in Washington D.C. by Timothy Eytan via Flickr Creative Commons.

By Community Alliance Staff

During the second week of March, the administration of CSU Fresno sent out the following letter to students.

From: CSU Fresno President Castro

Subject: Border Patrol and Fresno State Career Fair

Dear Students:

Please be advised that during the upcoming Career and Internship Fair next Wednesday, March 15th from 1:30 PM – 5:00 PM (at the Save Mart Center) many agencies will be recruiting students for employment and internships. One of the agencies that will be there is the Department of Homeland Security Border Patrol. You may see their marked cars in the parking lots and officers in their uniforms. We want to make you aware of this to avoid panic or raise false alarms and we ask that you exercise discretion at all times.

Backlash

Criticism was swift from students and faculty, as well as members of the community generally. A group of a few dozen people gathered on campus to protest the school’s decision to allow ICE to participate in the career fair. There were also passionate written responses. Below is one sent to the university as a formal letter and shared on Facebook.

“To the Offices of Student Affairs and Career Services at Fresno State:

I am an assistant professor of anthropology. I work tirelessly through my teaching, service, and research to ensure that my students understand the ethical, cultural, and political consequences of their actions as individuals as well as of those of individuals, agencies, and organizations. A recent decision to allow Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to come to campus to participate in a career fair counteracts the work that I do and is also out of line with other University efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. In the current political context, thousands of our students and their families face the daily threat of detention and deportation.

Having ICE/DHS on campus creates a hostile learning environment for these students. It also teaches their peers that getting a job with these agencies is ethical and somehow more important than the lives of their peers who are criminalized and subjected to violence and inhumanity that only some can even begin to imagine. Thus, while I understand that no one from Career Services invited ICE/DHS to campus, I think we, as staff, need to exercise additional discretion about the impacts that our (in)actions have on our students, both those directly affected by immigration policies and those who are implicitly being advised that working for such racist and xenophobic agencies is a viable career option.

As a faculty member, and as a researcher with over a decade of experience working with immigrant communities, I feel demoralized by my employer’s inactions and lack of critical thinking skills right now. I urge whoever is in charge of this career fair today 3/15 to actively discourage DHS/ICE from attending the event, thereby putting the emotional, educational, and social well-being of thousands of our immigrant, first generation, and DACA/ Dreamer/ Undocumented/ Unprotected/ Religious Minority students first, because their lives are deeply affected by these agencies, regardless of the intentions of their participation in the career fair today. I also urge that Career Services create a policy that is more selective about WHICH employers are allowed to come to campus. Would this office on campus allow an active branch of a hate group with a business license or non-profit status to come to campus for job recruitment? Then why a federal agency with a multi-decade track record of racism and xenophobia?

There may be rules or laws that prevent Fresno State administrators or career fair organizers from preventing a federal agency from coming to campus; however, there were a number of alternative approaches that could have gotten around this issue. For one, a separate DHS/ICE recruitment event could have been set up off campus with Fresno State’s participation. This would have mitigated some of students’ feelings of dread, trauma, anxiety, and fear. It also would have allowed more students to feel comfortable participating in the Recruit the 99 event.”

Dvera Saxon

Image from Fresno Resistance Facebook page

Castro Responds

At a student forum on March 15, President Castro spoke to those upset that ICE was attending Fresno State‘s career fair for recruitment purposes. This response was also broadcast online on Fresno State’s social media platforms. You can watch it at https://www.facebook.com/FresnoState/videos/vb.23884755743/10155871146315744/?type=2&theater

“This gives them the opportunity… it gives you and other students the opportunity to decide what path you want to take. As your president, I think it would be inappropriate for me to filter your options… Really, you know… we talk about what our mission is to boldly empower and educate you for success. That’s the empowerment part. You get to decide where you want to work. You get to decide if you’re going to go to this recruitment fair or not. You get to decide if you go to the recruitment fair [and] if you’re going to visit the ICE booth or not. Maybe you’re going to focus on other agencies. And there are going to be many agencies there that want to recruit our students… We let our Dreamers [children brought to the U.S. by undocumented parents] know that ICE was coming last week. We sent a letter to them. So, they’ve been aware for the last week. We let them know that this has taken place in the past, hiring for career positions and internships and that they would be on campus solely for recruiting students today… You’re empowered as a student to decide where you want to work. And, by law, I can’t restrict a federal agency from recruiting here. In fact, students—many of our students—are interested in working in the federal government. And it’s really in the hands of the students to decide where they want to work.”

Image of Fresno Resistance protest against ICE in Fresno, March 17, 2017.

Community Response

Fresno Resistance is a grassroots organization that describes itself as “an intersectional, silo-breaking, leftist collective led by queer/undocumented/women of color.” The group posted this statement in reaction to President Castro’s response to the criticism:

“We don’t believe that DHS/ICE/Border Patrol or any other entity that exists for the purpose of terrorizing and deporting our community should be allowed on campus period. In January, he [Castro] said that Fresno State was committed to its mission “To boldly educate and empower students for success with our core value of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all.” But supporting the deportation machine and providing a platform for xenophobia and racism is completely counter to this narrative.

In this current political climate where white supremacists have been elevated to the highest offices of this country and where millions of immigrants and people of color are facing tremendous fear and uncertainty about their future, inviting Border Patrol on campus is the last thing that should be happening. We cannot normalize the dehumanization of immigrants and we cannot treat Border Patrol as simply another career option. If President Castro is serious about protecting undocumented students and standing on the right side of history, we recommend he reconsider his position and prohibit these agencies from ever coming onto campus.

Fresno State’s slogan of “Discovery. Diversity. Distinction.” should be our guiding values rather than “Discrimination. Detention. Deportation.”