TORCH GRAPHIC AND PHOTOS/AMANDA NEGRETTI, SPENCER CLINTON
When finance student Sam Gonzalez arrived on campus Thursday, he was ready to hit the Career fair in hopes of landing an internship and networking to find prospective job opportunities. The commuter student was initially unaware of the uproar over the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) being represented at the fair. He wasn’t surprised to see that students were upset.
“I’m an immigrant myself, and I do feel that it may be the university’s intentions weren’t to harm, but they didn’t think about the potential outcome of their actions,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like they did it because there are certain students with certain majors that would like to visit ICE and CBP’s table at the Career Fair.”
A University spokesperson said the invitations weren’t politically motivated, but rather an attempt to expose students to as many potential employers as possible. But students interviewed at the Career Fair by the Torch expressed concern over the controversy.
A few hours prior to the fair, students were notified that ICE would not be in attendance. But the invitation alone stung for some students.
Gonzalez called it “wrong school, wrong time.”
“This is such a diverse school,” Gonzalez said. “There are immigrants from so many different countries, so I don’t feel like that was right for them to do.”
Government and politics student, Clyde Drayton, said he was happy to see that ICE wasn’t in attendance. A university spokesperson said ICE decided not to attend “due to unforeseen circumstances,” and ICE did not respond to a request for comment.
“If ICE came, we would definitely be holding a demonstration outside of the building just to let people know what this university has done time and time again,” Drayton said. “For ICE to come and start recruiting at one of the most diverse schools in the country, it’s just inconsiderate and we’ve been through it time and time again. We just want to hold the university accountable at this point.”
St. John’s prides itself on the diversity of the student body, but Drayton said: “there was a lot of racial tension on campus last year, and ICE almost coming to the Career Fair was just incredibly offensive and also considering the things that happened over the summer with ICE detaining and separating families, people dying in ICE custody, all tragic things.”
Drayton said he thought it’d be a better idea for the school to provide homeland security majors direct access to ICE recruiters as opposed to exposing the entire student body to the controversial government agency.
“In my major, there are Republican and Democratic offices besides the Career Fair here,” he said. “It’s more direct and we know what they’re getting at instead of having it outside in the open, which could potentially offend somebody. This could’ve went a different way.”
Xenia Diaz, Vice President of Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority Inc., was a part of a number of cultural organizations and their representatives who confronted Career Services about ICE’s invitation to the fair.
“My organization and I voiced our opinions,” Diaz said. “I told them my whole organization and a whole lot of other students felt disrespected, it was good to see so many other organizations come together for a good cause and for a cause we all have something in common with.”
Diaz said she thought that ICE’s presence would be contradictory to the school’s Inclusion and Diversity Resource initiative. The office is set to officially open on Friday.
“I understand that ICE has been coming for years, but these checkpoints in the news with ICE is recent so they should’ve revoked the invitation,” she said. “I feel like they didn’t think of their student body.”
Diaz thought that ICE’s presence would’ve hindered many students from attending the fair.
Jennifer Mora-Amaya, President of the Association of Latino Professionals For America St. John’s chapter, said she couldn’t imagine how freshmen would feel walking into the Career Fair if ICE was in attendance.
“I revived the ALPFA chapter on campus to, as our mission states, empower Latinx leaders,” she said. “Latinx students are already working three times harder to get a foot in the door and ICE is that reminder that we are continuously at a disadvantage.”
To those who didn’t understand the significance of ICE’s possible presence at the fair, Mora-Amaya said “educate yourself.”
“I think in most protests it really comes down to how the topic affects you,” she said. “I had people in the Latinx community tell me that they didn’t understand our outrage and that’s because they never dealt with this.”
Moving forward, Mora-Amaya hopes that the Inclusivity Resource Center can bring about change.
She said, “I think the center can help the University make more culturally conscious decisions as these communities that it was created for will be a part of the conversation.”