Student Government Senators voted on Nov. 18 to back the petition, brought to them by student protesters, that would push to remove the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) from the Career Fair.
The issue was brought up to President Eugene Cornacchia, Ph.D, Provost Frederick Bonato, Ph.D and Milos Topic, vice president and chief information officer of Information, Technology and Operations, who were guests at the meeting.
Student protesters came prepared, armed with their words and with posters of children killed at the hands of CBP.
“When Saint Peter’s opened its center for undocumented students in 2014, you said that you wanted to extend your welcome and support to the undocumented students, and that you were proud to continue to advocate for Dreamers,” said Loretta Graceffo, one of the student protesters. “Our petition has the signatures of nearly 60 Saint Peter’s students who agree that Border Patrol goes against what Saint Peter’s promotes in their Jesuit values, and that it makes students feel unsafe, having their presence on campus.”
The Center for Engagement and Experiential Learning (CEEL) has allowed DHS and CBP to recruit students during their bi-annual Career Fair, although it was not made clear whether the office was inviting the two federal groups or if they were asking to come.
Laura Pakhamanov, the Executive Director for CEEL, explained over email that the Career Fair is “open to all corporate and community partners that are looking to recruit talent for their current job opportunities.”
“Saint Peter’s has a strong criminal justice program, which produces candidates who may be interested in opportunities with this organization. In fact, one of the recruiters is a Saint Peter’s alumnus,” said Pakhamanov.
Pakhamanov did not respond to a separate email asking if CEEL would be willing to negotiate with the petitioners.
At the meeting, Cornacchia described himself as “sympathetic” to the issue, explaining that there are students who rely on DHS and CBP’s presence at the Career Fair because there’s the possibility of employment. However, he did understand the ethical reason behind wanting to bar them.
“According to university council, we have been told that we cannot prevent them from being here because we accept federal dollars. We have to treat them the same as the FBI or any federal agency,” he said at the meeting. “[They] have a right to come here and recruit on campus in the same way, with the same treatment as any other recruiter that’s allowed on campus.”
Despite the potential setback, Cornacchia promised to look into the issue further, and to brief the activists on his progress within the coming weeks.
After the guests departed, senators made the decision to formally back the petition under the contingency that the wording would be altered slightly. Senators Gineen Abuali and Maria Mendez are co-sponsoring.
“We have to keep pushing. We have to make sure we’re on the same page, keep having conversations with Cornacchia on an effective approach to shame DHS and CBP off campus grounds, and make people more aware that this is happening and that it must stop,” said Desiree Armas, a student protester. “I know that won’t be the last time we’re there.”