As an immigrant rights advocacy organization, UF Chispas has collaborated with Student Government to advocate for inclusive campus policies toward immigrant students at UF. Due to past cooperation with SG, our organization was shocked and disappointed to see the presence of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Chomp the Vote’s Public Policy Career Day on March 21. We were also hurt by the way SG entities poorly handled our concerns.
Chomp the Vote, a SG agency, hosted the event to promote professionalism and career opportunities and invited various government and private agencies. Among them was the Department of Homeland Security, which aims to provide public security through anti-terrorism efforts, border security, natural disaster prevention, etc.
During the event, the Department of Homeland Security displayed a large banner bearing the name and seal of the ICE, a law enforcement agency in charge of the enforcement of immigration laws in the U.S. Since its conception in 2003, the agency is the perpetrator of racial profiling, harassment, violence and inhumane treatment that has led to the deportation of both documented and undocumented immigrants.
The presence of ICE at an open event in the Reitz Union created, what we felt was, a hostile environment that goes against UF’s mission to provide an inclusive environment. For our community and allies, ICE symbolizes the systematic oppression that terrorizes the immigrant community. It is not uncommon for immigrants, particularly undocumented and first-generation students and faculty, to feel targeted and isolated on a predominantly white campus.
Many students went to the event with hopes of learning new ways to advance their professional goals but instead were confronted with an organization that could potentially destroy their families and is a personal threat to their future and safety. For this reason, ICE has no place at UF.
These actions are especially disappointing coming from an SG administration that has claimed to be supportive of the immigrant community and even explicitly referenced the undocumented community in their platform during the election season.
Instead of a public apology, we have experienced weeks of silence and excuses. Chomp the Vote informed us that Student Body President Ian Green was unavailable to meet with us, even after attending his office hours, for which he was not present.
As members of Chispas, one of the only student organizations on campus that focuses on promoting immigrant rights, we feel it is our duty to hold Chomp the Vote and SG accountable for this “mishap.” It is our obligation to speak out for a community that is often forced to live in the shadows and in fear, in large part due to ICE’s cruel practices. For these reasons, we urge SG to fulfill our list of requests. Let it be clear that a hostile environment was created by ICE’s presence at Chomp the Vote’s event. We are hurt. We are angry. We feel betrayed. We feel used.
We urge UF SG and Chomp the Vote to release a public apology to the affected community and take responsibility for the shock and pain this incident introduced to an already marginalized community. We ask they apologize to students involved for their lack of transparency and failed accountability, as well as to the students involved for their hostile and defensive response when the impact of their actions was brought to their attention. Finally, we ask all elected and appointed members to attend and complete Undocupeers training through the Multicultural and Diversity Affairs Department.
UF Chispas is an immigration advocacy group.