The Border Patrol is looking for a few good men and women -- but not angry confrontation, and that concern is what prompted the agency to back out of a college job fair.
Accusing the federal agency charged with protecting U.S. borders of “unjust killings, …. racial profiling, use of force, and unjust violence,” protesters at University of California-Irvine succeeded in stopping the Border Patrol from taking part in an Oct. 22 career fair - and blocked students from learning more about a possible job opportunity.
"We regret to inform the community that out of concern for the safety of CBP Recruitment Officers, U.S. Customs & Border Protection will no longer be participating in the UCI Fall Career Fair,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Ralph DeSio told FoxNews.com, instead referring students to the agency’s recruitment website.
“If you don't like the Border Patrol, it still doesn't give you license to demand their removal."
- Rob Petrosyan, UC Irvine’s College Republicans
DeSio did not say what specific threats prompted the decision. But the move followed a Change.org petition drive that some 600 people backed demanding the agency be banned from the job fair at UC Irvine’s Student Center. The petition claimed “having Border Patrol agents on campus is a blatant disregard to undocumented students’ safety and well-being” and is insulting to “mixed-status families.”
UCI’s administration was “prepared to take every step necessary to ensure their safety and the safety of the attendees,” said school spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon, adding that the university never received any threats to safety.
“The Change.org petition and comments on the petition were not threatening,” Lawhon said.
The petition claimed the mere presence of Border Patrol representatives could prove traumatic for students.
"The fact that UCI has invited an agency known for racial profiling, use of force, and unjustified violence is an act of disrespect and insensitivity and ignores the struggles and needs of the undocumented student community on campus," it read in part.
Ironically, most of the people who signed the petition weren’t students from the university, said UC Irvine’s College Republicans President Rob Petrosyan. He said the campaign was organized by outsiders “politicizing a jobs fair aimed at helping college students find work once they graduate.”
“I haven't seen that petition distributed around the UCI class pages, and it seems like most of the signatures are from outside UCI,” Petrosyan said.
Even if the 640 people who signed the petition were in fact enrolled at the 30,000-student campus, that’s just 2 percent of the student body, some noted.
Whoever was behind the campaign to bar the Border Patrol showed ignorance about the important role the agency plays, according to DeSio, who said new recruits to the agency have an opportunity to save lives as well as protect U.S. sovereignty.
“The Border Patrol in San Diego conducted 37 rescue missions and saved 96 people from Oct. 1, 2014 to Aug. 31, 2015, rescuing them from the elements and environment when they attempted to cross into the U.S. illegally,” DeSio said.
On the UC Irvine student Facebook page, students and people unaffiliated with the public university carried on the debate.
“Students didn't want Border Patrol there because it is an immoral, human rights-violating institution,” wrote a commenter identified as Levi Vonk. “This is about denouncing an organization that has ruined literally millions of people's lives through detention and deportation, and has deported unknown thousands to their deaths in their home countries. This is a civil rights movement for everyone, regardless of citizenship. This is bravery.”
However, college is supposed to be about peaceful interaction and respect, Petrosyan countered, echoing what many others said on the UC Irvine student social media page.
“If you don't like the Border Patrol, it still doesn't give you license to demand their removal. Especially since they were there to recruit for jobs as opposed to running patrols,” Petrosyan said.
Border Patrol, which has participated in several student fairs since 2010, was refunded its $600 vendor fee. More than 90 groups posted displays at the event, including the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and Army, agencies that have been targets of protesters at other universities, but escaped the ire of protesters this time around.
The university had refused to ban Border Patrol from the campus, saying “UCI is committed to bringing a full spectrum of employers to campus to meet with our student population.”
“It’s up to individual students to determine which employers may or may not align with their diverse talents, values and interests,” Lawhon said.
UC Irvine is the same University that garnered national attention March 3, when The Associated Students of University of California supported a resolution to ban the American flag in some spaces on campus because it represented “hate speech” and “made people feel very uncomfortable and unsafe.”
Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman