Customs and Border Patrol were initially given a booth at the Winter Career Fair on Feb. 26. An email went out warning students about their presence and to stay home if they felt uncomfortable. On Feb. 20, there was a town hall meeting where the issue was talked about in detail between concerned students, Chancellor Mark Pagano and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Mentha Hynes-Wilson. Students who were still unhappy about CBP threatening the safety of undocumented students planned to hold a protest outside the career fair.
It was during that town hall where afterward Hynes-Wilson led a focused discussion with several students in further explaining the situation, taking in feedback and providing different solutions for students to both be safe and protest the presence of CPB on campus.
On Feb. 24, two days before the career fair and planned protest, an email was sent out by the Office of the Chancellor informing students that CBP was uninvited to the career fair.
“As a university campus with one of the most diverse student bodies in the U.S, we strive to create an environment that is supportive for all our students,” Pagano said in the official statement from his office. “We have students who are immigrants and whose parents are immigrants. Considering the positive and educational purpose of the career fair, we determined the best course of action was to ask CBP not to participate, and they agreed.”
While the protest — organized by students from the Progressive Student Union, members of the UW Tacoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and members of the Latinx community — was initially to get CPB out of the career fair, they wanted to keep the rally and instead focus on the prevention of allowing an incident like this from happening again. They used this time to gather signatures for a petition to change campus policy. They also wanted to increase support for a bill, Senate Bill 6442.currently in the Washington legislature which would prevent the operation of private detention facilities in the state, which would affect the Northwest Detention Center here in Tacoma’s port — less than two miles away from campus.
“Thank you to everyone who helped us get them off our campus, we are truly powerful when we all stand together, and that’s why we’re not done,” said PSU President Sean Arent in an email. “We need to make sure that this never happens again, so that future students aren’t subjected to this.”
The rally took place on the morning of Feb. 26, starting outside of the University Y and moving down the staircase to the center of campus by the lunch hour. It started with about twenty-five students and about three faculty members, but by the time they were in the middle of campus, those numbers increased dramatically.
Students came ready to stand for what’s right and were passionate about the response from the campus.
When asked for an interview, many students were not comfortable with providing their full names. One pre major freshman student, who wanted to be known only as April, shared how the initial response is what caused concern on campus. They felt that the campus was putting the responsibility on students who were uncomfortable with the presence of CBP and that they should take their own precautions.
“The disinvite was one step to change but there still needs to be policy changes,” April said.
Students chanted things like “Hate has no home here” and “No CBP at UWT” while cars and other students walked by and showed their support. Some even joined in with them. The organizers came prepared with buttons, posters, flyers and a petition to sign to change the policy at UW Tacoma to prevent something like this from happening again.
When the protest moved to the center of campus, many students took turns leading chants and speaking about how they felt about the situation.
The Associated Students of the University of Washington Tacoma addressed students’ concerns by writing a letter of disagreement to the Chancellor. They felt that the invitation of CBP violated W.A.C 478-136-030, where the code states: “The university will not make its facilities or services available to organizations which do not assure the university that they do not discriminate against any person as defined in the University’s Executive Order No. 31.”
ASUWT President Vincent Da also wrote a statement further addressing the letter sent by student government:
“As we represent the voice of our student body, we acknowledge and respect students that are interested in federal jobs and we are working with campus administration on a better process for handling future similar situations.”