On Sept. 5, 2017, an email was sent from the Office of the President to the Saint Peter’s University student body in the wake of President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“Saint Peter’s University has a long tradition of welcoming and educating first generation and immigrant students and the welfare of all of our students is of the highest priority,” the email read.
Now in 2019, students are petitioning to have the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) removed from the bi-annual Career Fair, sponsored by the Center for Engagement and Experiential Learning (CEEL.)
“The petition started when a team of Saint Peter’s student leaders realized that Customs and Border Protection tabled regularly at our career fairs,” said Desiree Armas, one of the students spearheading the petition.
According to Armas, the goal of the petition is to not only get CBP and DHS out of the Career Fair and off Saint Peter’s campus, but also to inquire about the number of SPU students that have been employed as a result.
“Allowing CBP to continue business as usual and by providing a space at our career fair, Saint Peter’s is not abiding by their university mission of “men and women for others,” of love and respect for all humans,” said Armas.
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.
Established in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks, DHS is a federal agency that protects the U.S. against threats, according to their official website. The DHS has many functions, from counter-terrorism to securing the U.S. borders.
CBP (not to be confused with ICE) is the unified border protection agency under DHS that manage, control and protect the U.S. border, according to their website. CBP also focuses on facilitating legitimate trade across borders.
“CBP and ICE work directly under the Department of Homeland Security and are the main culprits behind the inhumane treatment of migrants at our U.S.-Mexico border, the horrible conditions of the concentration camps and their intact cooperation with our administration’s xenophobic and racist policies,” said Armas.
The government-run facilities packed with migrants have been criticized for their conditions, compared to “concentration camps” by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY.)
However, not all students will be signing the petition. Adrian Plasencia, a criminal justice major, expressed his discontent over social media.
“This committee or club wants to remove a FEDERAL agency from the career fair … To deprive students of this opportunity because of one’s political views is wrong,” explained Plasencia, who describes himself as “a student whose family came here on a tire and stolen boats, [whose] first language was Spanish and enjoys ropa vieja con arroz moro y maduros.”
But according to senior Yasmeen Pauling, the organizers are hopeful to have the agencies removed by next semester’s spring career fair.