Education

Cal State Northridge students protest US Border Patrol recruiters on campus

Students and faculty protest U.S. Border Patrol recruiters at Cal State Northridge.
Students and faculty protest U.S. Border Patrol recruiters at Cal State Northridge.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

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Dozens of California State University, Northridge students and professors protested outside a campus job fair on Wednesday because U.S. Customs and Border Protection recruiters were inside talking to job seekers.

“A lot of migrants cross across that border and a lot of them die," said Chicana and Chicano studies major Raquel Cetz. "If it’s affecting a community and affecting your students, why let them come onto campus at all?"

She and other protesters said the presence of recruiters for the agency that runs the Border Patrol contradicts a message sent by university officials earlier this academic  year. Officials at this campus and systemwide told students and staff that undocumented students would be protected from harsh immigration policies enforced by the Trump Administration.

“There’s a question of morality,” said CSUN Professor Rodolfo Acuña as he watched the protest.

“I don’t think the CIA should be allowed to recruit here on campus, I don’t think that the Los Angeles Police Department should be allowed to recruit on campus. What is their purpose? What is their relationship with those communities? It’s mainly antagonistic.”

The job fair brought 54 nonprofit and public agencies to a large meeting room in the student union, about 20 yards away from a new student center devoted to help CSUN’s approximately 1,400 undocumented students.

“As a university, we cannot deny this particular agency from participating in the career fair,” said Shelley Ruelas-Bischoff, CSUN’s associate vice president for Student Life. “We cannot say, because we dislike their political agenda or whatever work that they’re doing, that they’re not allowed to be here.”

Inside the job fair, two U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents talked to people from behind a table with water bottles and pens with the the Border Patrol logo. Agents said they've talked to people about the benefits of joining the agency.

“A lot of them are looking for a law enforcement career, some are looking to serve their country, some are veterans looking to continue to serve their country,” said Agent Tony Morretta.

Outside, students and faculty — mostly of Mexican and Central American descent — chanted “Separating families is not a career.”

“A lot of my family was deported, about a decade ago,” said biology major Daniel Avena.

Avena said knowing the Border Patrol was recruiting on campus brought back memories of a U.S.-born cousin who was taken to Mexico with her deported relatives.

“Whatever happens politically will happen, and we will protect our students," said Dwayne Cantrell, CSUN’s associate vice president for Student Access and Support Services and Student Affairs. "But at the same time we do have people who have an interest in serving in many different careers.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection representatives are expected to be back on the CSUN campus next week for another job fair.