Essay

Overheard at UCSB

This past Friday, I attended a career workshop for students who returned from studying abroad. When the workshop first started, there was only me and two other guys in the audience. A representative from UCSB Career Services asked if any of us attended the quarterly Career Fair that took place the day before.

Keep in mind that a coalition of students protested against the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP), one of the participating entities attempting to recruit students for post-grad work experience. CBP has an extended recorded (and probably unrecorded) history of human rights violation under the pursuit of “protecting America’s borders.” Reaching out to a college campus stirs an intense level of anxiety and stress for undocumented students. Many have directly experienced the uncertainty of being able to live in the U.S. and the trauma of border authorities forcibly separating families.

Protesters shouted “Fuck your borders! Fuck your walls!” among many other chants aimed toward the unwanted presence of the CBP. Inside the Career Fair, protesters in professional attire camouflaged among the job-seeking students and distracted the CBP representatives from reaching out to other students. Though I don’t know the effectiveness of that tactic, the message was already loud and clear outside for anyone passing by the Career Fair.

With that context said, a guy sitting on my right raised his hand and went off on a rant:

Ugh the stupid protesters pissed me off so much!!! They were so loud that I had a hard time talking to the people there. I mean I was able to exchange some contact information. But, like, I just came back from studying abroad and then there’s a protest. They can take their protest somewhere else.

Talk about ignorance at its finest. I was so appalled by the string of words that came out of his mouth that I couldn’t shoot back at him with a rebuttal right away. He left before I could sit his ass down and teach him a lesson about the current situation with undocumented folks.

To that guy who was so upset by the protest for hindering his chance at a career that he’d probably leave in a few years anyway (because nothing is set for life in this new millenium, let’s be real):

Do you remember how racial integration became legal in American schools?

Thank the organizers who gave up their time and put their bodies on the line to protest nonviolently on the streets. Without their call for desegregation not only in schools and everywhere across the country, people of color would not have the same access and opportunity for (higher) education as white people, who have always lived comfortably in their privilege within the white-dominant system.

Besides, taking the “protest somewhere else” as you wished would defeat the very purpose of a protest. These students carefully planned this action because of the news that CBP would be present at the Career Fair. Plus, a protest helps bring attention to an issue that the mainstream media does not regularly cover, and deserves to be heard in the local community. The protesters clearly caused you annoyance for a few hours, but that’s little compared to the very real and painful experiences for those who live with uncertainty on a daily basis due to their undocumented status. Assuming that you are documented, you and I have the privilege of living comfortably without the triggering level of stress that undocumented folks must deal with–all on top of being a full-time student at the same university.

No one ever asked nicely to the higher-ups for better changes in their lives…

Anyway, just had to get that off my chest because I have friends who have been affected by the CBP and they deserve to feel safe on campus. As a child of immigrants who moved to the states for a better life than in their home country, I am in solidarity with the undocumented community.

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