Border Patrol Webinar at the University

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Alexandra Puga

On Oct. 17, the University emailed students that there will be a webinar on Oct. 30 with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to recruit students. The email said that the webinar will allow students to “speak with U.S. Border Patrol Agents to learn about career opportunities and tips for applying to them. Have your resumes drafted and ready to apply. Application links will be sent following the webinar.” Despite the announcement on Handshake, the webinar will not be held on campus in person—it will be online only.

University students have expressed concern with the webinar, as CBP is an active participant in the separation of families at the border and has committed human rights violations recorded by domestic and international human rights groups. Children are being separated from their parents, women are being sexually assaulted by guards, which include minors. Immigrants come to America seeking asylum and CBP is rejecting them from making claims.

As of Sept. 23, the Customs and Border Patrol is officially defined as “a premier law enforcement agency that safeguards America’s borders. Every day, CBP protects the public from dangerous people and materials attempting to cross the border, while enhancing the Nation’s global economic competitiveness by enabling legitimate trade and travel at ports of entry,” according to the CBP website.

In a statement from the University to certain organizations and student leaders on campus, the University said, “We welcome students of all backgrounds to come to Pace and succeed. Our students have many different kinds of career goals and aspirations. For that reason, it is important that we offer a wide range of employment opportunities to support their success. It doesn’t imply that we share the values of any of these organizations or companies.” Their message continues, “We firmly believe that our graduates have the intelligence, values, and training to make positive change within any organization that hires them.”

Dean for Students and Chair Diversity Officer

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On Oct. 18, Dean for Students Marijo Russell-O’Grady hosted a group meeting with the Executive Director of Career Services Phyllis Mooney and Chief Diversity Officer Tiffany Hamilton. Students who were interested in attending the group meeting were able to email Dean Russell-O’Grady for details. On late Oct. 18, Dean Russell-O’Grady and Hamilton also issued their own statement in addition to the University’s, stating, “Pace University wholeheartedly supports immigrant students and their right to achieve their dreams and be part of the next generation of leaders.”

University junior and Social Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies major Marisa Guillet attended the group meeting. Guillet told The Pace Press, “Chief Diversity Officer Tiffany stated that she woke up at 3 a.m. considering how institutionally and historically some organizations have been oppressive or have not had the best records and is thinking about how we can go forward. She said this challenges her and administration to be more thoughtful.”

Career Services

In the University’s statement, they said, “Career Services engages with about 10,000 employers each year, and while we screen them to try to ensure that all are legitimate, we do not apply a political or other subjective screen to permit employers into our Career Services program.”

Pace Political Science Society

Pace PSS has posted numerous statements expressing their concern over Career Service’s partnership with CBP. The group was unable to speak with Dean Russell-O’Grady, but has spoken out to many administrators. In an Instagram statement, Pace PSS (@pace_pss) said, “We understand your point but the message sent out by Career Services was vague enough to cause such an anxiety in our students that student leadership has to step up to the plate. We are calling for accountability.”

Student Government Association

SGA put out a statement on Instagram (@sganycpace) saying, “The Student Government Association believes that Pace University is an inclusive environment and, therefore, should not pride itself on its acceptance of students from diverse communities if it is going to associate itself with an organization that has a track record for abusing the fundamental human rights of those that look like/ speak the same language as/ and live the culture of our PEERS. We expect better.” SGA has expressed that the University claims to be a sanctuary, and the webinar directly contradicts that statement.

Students and Professors

Guillet told The Pace Press, “I also argued that the promotion of this webinar, as well as Pace Career Services choosing to give CBP access to Pace students, is fundamentally wrong. While I understand our mission is Opportunitas and understand the importance of providing students with opportunities, job opportunities need to be more properly vetted because it sets a dangerous precedent going forward.”

She continued, “That team needs to not only consider whether Pace students are qualified but also that they reflect the same values Pace holds: diversity, inclusion and the safety of Pace students.”

Guillet also asked Dean Russell-O’Grady that since “they are willing to provide students with the connection via webinar, would they have CBP on campus physically in the future to recruit students? Marijo said absolutely not.” Guillet continued, “I said that needs to be explicitly promised to students. She said nothing, implying to me that a promise like that cannot be made.”

“This meeting really emphasized to me that while they might claim that they enjoy being ‘kept on their toes’ by students and enjoy being challenged, they only want certain people challenging them. SGA expressed that they are the direct link to administration and everything including the forum and apology from administration will go through them first,” Guillet concluded.

Professor Marmo of the Peace and Justice Studies Department, who also works with the United Nations concerning human rights, says, “CBP are currently engaging in widespread violations of human rights at the border. CBP are separating families, detaining young children who are unable to care for themselves separately from their parents or caregivers, and subjecting asylum seekers to inhumane detention conditions that violate the basic human rights to wellbeing, safety and fair treatment guaranteed for all people by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many asylum seekers approaching the border are fleeing the threat of physical, political or economic violence in their countries of origin, seeking a better life in the United States. The resulting CBP action only upholds the values of protectionism and xenophobia, further heightening racism among the American public and justifying an individualistic world order governed by a lack of regard for humanity.”

Marmo  continued, “Pace University has a choice—to either be complicit in perpetuating these violations by inviting CPB to proselytize and recruit students, or to stand up to the injustices being carried out by CBP and deny them access to the student body.”

The webinar will not be canceled since it is not held by the University. “If yesterday’s [Oct. 17] communication caused you to have concern for your safety, we encourage you to contact Dean for Students Marijo Russell-O’Grady or Chief Diversity Officer Tiffany Hamilton with concerns or for support.”

Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 9.41.22 PMSGA will be hosting a forum in the Bianco Room on Monday, Oct. 21 during common hour, 12:10-1:10. Many administrators will be in attendance.

The Pace Press will continue to post updates concerning the ongoing situation. We will be covering SGA’s forum on Monday. To stay up to date, keep checking The Pace Press website or follow our social media pages (@thepacepress on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook).