U.S. Custom and Border Protection withdraws from career fair amidst protest

Photo Courtesy of smith.edu ||  U.S. Custom and Border Protection withdrew from this week’s career fair amid a widely-circulated petition among students. 

Photo Courtesy of smith.edu || U.S. Custom and Border Protection withdrew from this week’s career fair amid a widely-circulated petition among students. 

Destiny Wiley-Yancy ‘20
Video Editor

Representatives from U.S. Custom and Border Protection withdrew their participation last week in the fall career fair, following a campus petition that amassed more than 900 signatures from the Smith College community. 

In a statement published on the Lazarus Center of Career Development’s website, CBP New England Public Affairs Officer Stephanie Malin writes that the agency withdrew from the Sept. 28 event due to the possibility of “caus[ing] any unnecessary distractions to other employers or students.”

CBP’s withdrawal from the career fair comes after an online petition entitled “No CBP at Smith” circulated within the Smith College community, calling for the withdrawal of CBP’s invitation. The petition demanded the Lazarus Center publicly uninvite CBP by Sept. 22. 

Denisse Velazquez ‘19 and Abby Weaver ‘18 were among the students who drafted the petition that began circulating on Facebook. 

Velazquez found out about CBP’s coming from an email from the Lazarus Center. After she made a Facebook post about it, students quickly responded ready to take action. 

In an influx of Facebook comments, and an influx of text messages, Velazquez and Weaver met up with other students and soon drafted the petition. 

“I didn’t want this to be portrayed as a two person effort. We had the gut reaction that something needed to be done, but so did a lot of other people” Velazquez said.

Many students met up with Velazquez and Weaver to draft the statement that accompanied the petition. 

“It is disingenuous of our administration to allow the presence of this institution on our campus especially after the release of a campus-wide statement which supposedly claimed to “‘ensure the safety and well-being of our students, regardless of immigration status,’” the petition said. “We want to hold fast to our college’s commitment to protect all our students, especially those most vulnerable at this moment, and ensure that the CBP is not welcome on our campus.” 

Weaver emphasized the point that the Lazarus Center, itself did not take steps to address student concerns. 

“It was actually the border patrol recruiters themselves who pulled out. I want to underline that the institution, Smith College, didn’t meet our demands. It was the recruiters,” Weaver said.

CBP’s statement is the second to appear on the Lazarus Center’s website since news of CBP’s coming was made known by the release of this year’s attendees. The first statement addressed student concerns, noting that “some members of our community have expressed concerns about their presence on campus.” 

The first statement from the Lazarus Center about the career fair was posted on Sept. 18, and refers attention back to the intention of the career fair. 

“CBP, like all other registrants, attends the career fair for recruiting purposes and recruiting purposes alone,” the statement said. “The primary purpose of the career fair is to offer a wide array of employment opportunities. We also recognize that students may not be aligned with the mission and values of all employers in attendance.”

Student organizers were upset that the first statement did not actively address the issue of CBP coming, making reference to the statements President McCartney released about securing the safety of undocumented students following the rollback of DACA policies. 

“Smith is supposedly ‘an institution founded to expand access to education … committed to the right of every student to pursue their education with certainty and stability in a safe and supportive environment,’” the petition reads.

“When I read it, it was just full of contradictions and hypocrisy, in light of statements that have been made saying that Smith is committed to being an institution – an environment – committed to protecting its most vulnerable students namely undocumented students,” Velazquez said, in reference to the Lazarus Center’s first statement. “That isn’t going to happen when these kinds of agencies are allowed on campus.”

When CBP was listed on the Lazarus Center’s website as one of the 70 organizations participating in the fall career fair, it was described as, “one of the world's largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade.” 

CBP was set to recruit students for positions such as “Border Patrol Agent” and “CBP Officer.”

Requests for comment from the Lazarus Center were directed to the statements on the website.