In Response to the LA Times Editorial Board

This week U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) was supposed to participate at UC Irvine’s career fair. After undocumented students organized in opposition to CBP’s presence, they withdrew from the event. It was a small but significant victory for migrant justice on campus and for the well being of the school’s undocumented student population. So our disappointment to the LA Times Editorial Board’s defense of CBP’s participation in the event comes as no surprise.

Their defense of CBP’s participation is disappointing and filled with many misconceptions in so many areas. UC Irvine claims to be an inclusive and safe environment for all students, welcoming students from all nationalities, genders, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses. And this list includes immigration statuses. This campus upholds values of diversity and equality (as it should), but by inviting CBP to the university, UCI administration is clearly disregarding the safety and protection of undocumented students in favor of the overall student population as a whole.

Our ask was to remove CBP from participating in the Career Fair. While they ultimately decided to withdraw, they still had the opportunity and the right to recruit potential employees via online applications. We advocated for the removal of their physical presence to protect our communities from further emotional and mental harm that directly and indirectly result from CBP’s deportation and detention policies. CBP’s absence from the career fair is an insignificant loss; they are already one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the world with over 60,000 employees. And let me ask you, why would anyone want to work for an agency that is dedicated to militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border and an unjustified use of violence when apprehending and detaining migrants?

This was not a battle of being “politically correct,” nor one that had to do with freedom of speech. Freedom of speech should be not compromised by an intentional act that has triggering and traumatizing effects on students’ well-being. Enforcing the notion that we need to be inclusive of and respect all other students’ opinions and therefore ignore a small population’s needs is implying that we as undocumented students should continue accepting this harmful and ignorant practice by the administration. Freedom of speech is not the right to continue using insensitive and hurtful speech that attacks our humanity, criminalizes our communities for being who we are, and denies our basic human right to exist. Just because our voices do not “represent” the overall student population does not mean that we should repeatedly accommodate to the majority view that is inherently inconsiderate and disrespectful.

CBP partaking in the UCI career fair was only a small issue — the bigger problem is why CBP even exists. Border Patrol was founded on institutional racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, militarized violence, and U.S. imperialism, with policies that aimed to criminalize migration of communities of color and arbitrarily dictated whether an individual has the right to live and survive in a different country. I suggest that we all look at the bigger picture: CBP’s existence leaves and is built on devastating effects of bodies of migrants, and to claim that a job opportunity for students is more valuable than recognizing CBP’s harm is utterly ridiculous.

About the Author

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Amy Yu is a student at UC Irvine and a member of the Orange County Immigrant Youth United. Amy immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong in 2001. Since then, she has been living in Monterey Park, California, and currently studies Psychology & Social Behavior and Criminology, Law & Society at University of California, Irvine. She joined OCIYU in February 2014 hoping to advocate for immigrant rights in the community.
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