Protesters rally against presence of border patrol agents at career fair

Protesters demonstrated in front of the Student Pavilion to show solidarity with undocumented students

Dozens of students gathered outside of the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus Thursday to oppose the presence of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at a career fair. 

The career fair was one of several regularly scheduled events that take place throughout the year, allowing students to network with potential employers and look for job opportunities. But some students said the presence of the CBP agents on campus poses a thereat to migrant students.

"My friend found out they were on campus and she started crying,” said Emily Torres, a sophomore double majoring in transborder Chicanx and Latinx studies and global studies. "It’s a fear that we shouldn’t have to face on a college campus."


Today's protest comes days after UA police filed charges against two students who protested the presence of CBP agents on their campus in March.

Two students, 20-year-old Denisse Moreno Melchor and 22-year-old Mariel Alexandra Bustamante, received misdemeanor charges for interfering with the peaceful conduct of an educational institution. Moreno Melchor was also charged with making threats and intimidation. 

Marianna Ariel Coles-Curts, a 27-year-old graduate student at UA, was also charged with interfering with the peaceful conduct of an educational institution on Thursday.  

The ASU protest wasn't organized by a specific club — rather, individual students and members of different activist organizations, such as Undocumented Students for Educational Equity, the Young Democratic Socialists of America at ASU and MEChA de ASU came together in protest.

A University spokesperson declined to comment on the event or subsequent protests, except to say that the University was monitoring "public safety."

Brenda Carrasco, a spokesperson for the ASU police department, said that the police were there to keep protesters and counter-protesters safe. 

"I know that they were upset about what happened at UA, but our purpose here is to make sure that they are OK," Carrasco said. "It’s just for their protection, and that’s why our officers are keeping their distance and letting them do their thing."

But protesters said that the increased police presence made them "uncomfortable," leading them to march between the pavilion and Hayden Lawn at various points. 

At the height of the protest, there were about 50 students chanting slogans such as "how do you spell racist? A-S-U" and "no borders on stolen land" outside of the pavilion. 

The crowd watching dispersed when the protesters moved between the Hayden Lawn and the Student Pavilion again around 1:30, but the protesters continued until the end of career fair at 3, when the CBP agents left. 


John Adamson, a freshman majoring in political science and a member of YDSA, explained that those two students were on the minds of the ASU protestors, who held up signs with phrases like "solidarity with U of A" and "free Denisse and free Mariel." 

"Sun Devils and Wildcats don’t usually get along, but when you see something like that happen… it comes around to that same state, same kind of things, affect us all,” Adamson said. "It’s good to stand up for people who were arrested just doing their civic duty.” 

One protester said that even though the agents were on campus to recruit students for jobs and not specifically to patrol, their presence alone felt antagonistic toward undocumented students.

"Just even seeing cops, you feel your heart race when you’re undocumented," said Vic, an undocumented student and junior majoring in urban planning who spoke to the State Press under the condition that her full name is withheld due to her immigration status. 

"Other students see cops on campus, just parked in their cars hanging out, and are like ‘oh, I’m safe,'" she said. "But for undocumented students, it just feels that much more dangerous and knowing that they’re armed in their cars and that they’re ready to go, and that the have the ability to arrest you, because ASU is not a sanctuary school. It’s really stressful."

Students who passed through the pavilion during the protest reacted with a mix of support and criticism -- while some cheered the protesters on, others ridiculed and shouted at them. 

Janice Rogers, a senior majoring in political science, expressed support for the protesters and said that living in Arizona her whole life has allowed her to see how border enforcement impacts the lives of others. 

"I think that’s ridiculous," Rogers said in response to CBP taking part in the job fair. "I hope nobody is in there, and nobody participates to help them. I think there should be more people out here protesting, actually."

Steven Sypkens, a freshman exploratory business major, said that he did not see an issue with CBP being on campus to recruit as part of the job fair. 

"It’s like any other organization or any other group," Sypkens said. "They have a right to say what they want and try and get people to be with them."

One student even knelt down for a photo in front of the protesters, holding promotional flyers he got from the CBP booth inside the job fair. Another individual poured water on the protesters from the pavilion balcony.

But protesters said that the opposition didn't faze them.

"We just ignore them," said Alexia Isais, a freshman majoring in global studies. "They're just here to antagonize, like the police do."

Isais said that she and other protesters hope the University addresses the incident soon.

"An ideal response is to have border patrol never step on our campus again, and another ideal response is to have Michael Crow publicly address this and to himself come to us as students and speak to us about what is happening, to apologize, and to make sure this never happens again," Isais said.

Others said that the University hasn't done enough to protect students of color on campus, and that this incident is emblematic of that problem.

Read more: Student protestors call for ASU to address issues facing marginalized communities

Protesters chanted "hey hey, ho ho, Michael Crow has got to go!" to express their apparent frustration at the lack of response by the University. 

"We want ASU to acknowledge what has happened and apologize for it, and never let it happen again," Vic said. "But that's probably not going to happen, because it’s freedom of speech to have border patrol on campus or whatever."

State Press reporters Bryan Pietsch and Vandana Ravikumar contributed to this story.


Reach the reporters at krquaran@asu.edu and bstoshne@asu.edu and follow @kiaraquaranta and @itsbrennaaaa on Twitter.

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