U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, pulled out of a UC Berkeley career fair after student activists petitioned to disinvite the agency from the Thursday event.
In a statement from the UC Berkeley Career Center on Wednesday, ICE informed the center of its withdrawal from the event and emphasized that the agency has no official partnership with the center. This follows the organization of students from Cal Bears Against ICE and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, or Cal ACLU, to stop ICE from attending the career fair after discovering the agency was recruiting at the event.
“It goes to show what student cooperation, collaboration and advocacy can do because, within a few hours, ICE decided to not attend,” said Anna Armstrong, a campus freshman and Cal ACLU member.
Armstrong said she and others spent Tuesday night spreading information about ICE’s attendance, creating an online petition and drafting call and email scripts to send to the Career Center in protest of the agency’s presence at the event.
Campus did not proactively invite ICE to the career fair, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. Rather, a recent campus graduate working at ICE reached out to the Career Center hoping to recruit students for jobs and internships, Gilmore added.
“Our career fairs are open to organizations and companies who want to recruit Berkeley students,” Gilmore said in an email. “While participation in career fairs should not be construed as an endorsement, we feel it is important that our students have the ability to make their own judgments about which organizations or companies they want to join, and we support their right to choose.”
Gilmore added that federal immigration officials are able to enter campus, but the federal government has historically not engaged in immigration enforcement at universities. ICE has also participated in previous career fairs.
Additionally, Gilmore noted the Career Center’s support for the undocumented student community.
“The Career Center fully supports UC Berkeley’s undocumented student community, and we recognize how the presence of ICE on campus could cause alarm, trigger trauma and anxiety around deportation, and/or misunderstanding,” Gilmore said in the email.
However, students questioned campus’ support for undocumented students.
Olivia Nouriani, an organizer with Cal Bears Against ICE and former writer for The Daily Californian, said campus has the responsibility not to channel students to work for ICE due to its claims of supporting undocumented students.
“The university loves to tout its support for undocumented students and its progressive reputation as a safe space for diverse students,” Nouriani said. “Yet, when it comes to the material protection of those students — ranging from financial security, providing housing, providing basic income for food and meeting basic needs to preventing ICE agents from coming onto our campus — they fail to do those things.”
While ICE withdrew from this semester’s career fair, Gilmore said the agency is not necessarily barred from participating in future events.
Every semester, according to Gilmore, the Career Center uses a mass email list with all interested employers to announce when registrations for career fairs open. Although ICE was not on the email invitation this semester, they were, upon their request, added to the future marketing list.
Nouriani said campus should acknowledge and make a commitment to never let ICE recruit on campus. While she celebrates ICE withdrawing from the event, Nouriani alleged its decision was based on expected negative press and not because the campus made the decision to disinvite the agency.
“If they come again we’re going to continue to make noise,” Nouriani said. “I don’t think it’s the time to let up pressure on the university.”