Students, campus respond to Border Protection presence at Career Fair


Associated Student’s meets on Thursday morning. Their first agenda item is about Custom and Border Patrol’s presence at the Career Fair. Photo credit: Ricardo Tovar

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers were invited to Chico Sate’s career fair on Wednesday, to the shock of many students.

After an initial flurry of confusion, panic and frustration faded, staff and students were waiting for the university and the Associated Students to address what happened.

The purpose of the event was for students and alumni with different kinds of majors and backgrounds “seeking business-related career positions and internships,” according to the Career Center.

The Commissioner of Diversity Affairs Lupe Santana and AS President Trevor Guthrie released a joint statement at 9:53 p.m. that night. The officers said they understand that CBP’s presence impacted students, staff and faculty and they “stand in solidarity with not only our undocumented community but any student who was affected today.”

Many students at Chico State across on campus, across social media, and in-person have vocalized their opinion on how terrorized CBP’s presence made them feel.

Director of the Career Center Megan Odom was asked about the reasoning behind CBP’s presence.

“CBP registered for the Career fair back in August,” Odom said. “They have attended other career fairs within the last two years. We worked closely with the Director of the Dream Center and the advisor for Leaders Educating for the Advancement of Dreamers (L.E.A.D.) and we let them know in advance that CBP would be coming on campus to recruit.”

“We weren’t actively calling CBP to come. We use the database Handshake, a database used by 900+ universities, and any employer can go on and see when schools are hosting job fairs. It was posted on our website that they were attending since the day they registered as well. We do not have the right to deny their access to a career fair as a university. Not allowing them to come was not an option for us.”

Odom also explained possible reasons on why the message of CBP’s attendance wasn’t spread out amongst the student body as the Career Center intended.

“As a university, we don’t have a list of students that are undocumented,” she said. “We just kind of have to rely on the networks within, so at this point, we don’t have a mechanism of reaching every student. We have followed these exact same communication procedures for several other fairs we’ve had, just like back in the spring of 2018 when CBP attended the career fair as well.”

“The sole purpose of attending the fair is to recruit. All agencies that attend the fair such as the corrections department, or police department, have always come in full uniform… But enforcement is never apart of the agreement of attending the fair.” Odom said, referring to the fact that officers were in full uniform.

“I think that we really tried hard to let students know that CBP would be attending the fair. We informed all the appropriate people,” Odom said.

The Associated Students (AS) Board of Directors meeting Thursday at 8 a.m. invited more students to attend to voice their thoughts. with an agenda item concerning the Border Patrol matter added.

“Although we can’t bar them (Border Patrol) from coming, I think we should explore ways we can help our students feel safer,” Associated Students President Trevor Guthrie said during the meeting.

“I know some schools put things in place to discourage them (Border Patrol) from coming. If we are truly an institution that values diversity and wants our students to feel safe, I think we should make sure that quite honestly those people (Border Patrol) are not coming to the Career Fair.”

Other things discussed ath the meeting were:

  • That the officer were just Human Resource agents looking to recruit
  • Border Patrol parked off-campus not to scare students
  • CBP has been invited in the past to attend the career fair
  • AS will look to warn student’s in the future if similar organizations come to campus
  • DREAM and LEAD directors were notified, with some students warned ahead of time
  • Students may have been wrapped up in misinformation on social media, thinking Chico State invited U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when that wasn’t the case

“I don’t like the framework of supporting all students,” Director of University Affairs, Alejandro Alfaro Ramirez said.

“I think that’s my whole problem with the whole diversity framework too. We are all people, we are all students, but in reality that kind of avoids a discussion of power and privilege. It’s one-step before having that conversation of understanding there are power dynamics that are in place. In reality, CBP and ICE are terrorist organizations… and they are affecting livelihoods of not only students and families on campus but also people in this country. I would side with Trevor and say we need to have a strong statement. Even if we can’t say, ‘We deny your request to be here.’ We should make them feel unwelcome. I know there is the issue of, ‘Well how do we pick and choose?’ but I think this is a very clear situation. We definitely don’t want ICE and CBP on campus, recruiting.”

Later on Thursday evening, the AS had their second meeting of the day that was open to students and staff. The AS officers and some board members began by discussing last week’s minutes and the potential future dates for next year’s election, and led up to CBP’s attendance at the Career Fair.

“There is no clear cut answer,”Guthrie said. “That’s what makes this issue so hard to tackle.”

“We are going to create dialogue and reach out to stakeholders who were most impacted by this. We are going to work together as a university with all the student organizations with the associated students. We want to bring people to the table to identify proactive ways we can address this issue — and ensure we mitigate as much risk as we can moving forward,” Guthrie said, when asked about how AS would assist in eliminating the divide that CBP put between the students and Chico State.

University of Communications was also called to state the issue. Media Relations Coordinator Sean Murphy said there will be no comment and he will leave all questions to be answered by the directors of the DREAM and Career Center.

Angelina Mendez and Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @@rtovarg13 on Twitter.