A small collection of UA Little Rock students gathered outside the Career Center Wednesday morning in protest of the university’s On-Campus Employer Event involving U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The protest, organized by the campus justice organization Advocating for the Wellbeing and Respect of Everyone (AWARE), came at a volatile time for the nation in political rhetoric regarding the border and immigration. Renea Goddard, leader of AWARE and organizer of the protest, learned of the campus event Tuesday afternoon and worked to create a protest which involved flyers, shirts, signs and chants in an attempt to bring attention to and inform students of alleged human rights violations promoted by CBP.
“We just want to demonstrate that as UALR students we don’t support the presence of CBP in our community and on our campus, especially [when they’re] trying to recruit our students,” Goddard said. “Many of the students here [at the protest] believe that CBP is an organization that promotes human rights violations and we just want to inform people of these facts… and make our voices heard.”
Almost 15 protesters participated at various points in the two hours CBP were on campus. Bryant Parnell, a sophomore majoring in history, was one of the protesters.
“My biggest thing is the separation of families,” Parnell said. “I don’t believe that has a place on this campus and I wish the university didn’t allow it.”
Another protester, Javier Hernandez, attended despite not being a UA Little Rock student. He heard about the protest through social media.
“The political climate is so hot,” Hernandez said. “And [for CBP to be present] on campus here? In the capital of Arkansas? It’s a little frustrating.”
CBP representatives first entered the Career Center as protesters began to gather. At the conclusion of the employer event, the CBP representatives were escorted out by campus security. Protesters chanted at them slogans like “Abolish ICE” and shouted for education instead of deportation.
The university responded to the Forum’s request for comment regarding the employer event.
“It’s routine for the university to have all manner of business and government entities on campus for recruitment events,” a spokesperson for the university said. “It’s a way to provide our students access to career possibilities after graduation.”
UA Little Rock also responded to the protest.
“The university respects our students’ opinions and their rights to protest on this and other issues,” they replied.
*Note: CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are two separate federal agencies. While both work together and collaborate in a variety of endeavors, ICE enforces U.S. immigration laws, while CBP performs inspections and patrols U.S. borders.