About 25 people from Fresno Resistance, a grassroots organization made up of students, campus groups, professors and the public, stood outside the Save Mart Center for 90 minutes holding signs and chanting “no fear, no hate, no ICE at Fresno State.”
Members handed fliers to career fair participants and asked them to drop the fliers off at the Border Patrol recruitment table. The group tried unsuccessfully to get inside to speak to the recruiters.
“We don’t think that Border Patrol or ICE or DHS or anyone from that agency should participate in the career fair,” said organizer Luis Ojeda, who is a 2012 Fresno State graduate. “It stands against the values that Fresno State claims to hold.”
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The protest was supported by MEChA de Fresno State, a Chicano advocacy group at the university. Members of the Young Democratic Socialists and Students for Outstanding Education on campus also participated.
Fresno State President Joseph Castro said federal law prohibits the university from keeping a federal agency from recruiting on campus. Several federal, state and local entities participated in the career fair and Immigration and Customs Enforcement was one of them, he said.
ICE has participated in campus recruitment fairs for several years looking to fill permanent jobs and internships. Fresno State has the California State University’s largest criminology program, so this campus is a natural connection for them, Castro said.
The university let Dreamers – young people who were children when their parents brought them illegally to the U.S. – know a week ago that ICE would be attending the fair. Castro said he was unaware of any complaints or concerns until Tuesday when he saw some posts on social media websites.
“I empathize with those who are concerned about (ICE),” Castro said at a news conference held at the Henry Madden Library. “On the other hand, I think it’s important to note that this is an event that is purely for the recruitment of students for employment.”
Sanger resident Tania Pacheco-Werner remembers as a 9-year-old child fearing that immigration officers would come to her school and take her away from her parents. Her family came from Mexico illegally in the 1980s. Pacheco-Werner, who joined Wednesday’s protest, is now an American citizen.
“I know firsthand the trauma that having ICE roaming around in our city causes children because I was one. I know that … it’s not necessary to come recruit from our bright young minds at Fresno State,” she said.
Ramon Jimenez, a second-year student studying political science and English, felt it was important to join the protest in honor of undocumented students at Fresno State. “I am part of Students for Quality Education and we try to make the school safe for everyone,” he said.
Having ICE on campus “doesn’t make them feel safe,” Jimenez said. “It impacts their learning. They are worried … we want them to know we stand with them and won’t let them be taken.”