The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection called the Mardigian Library at the University of Michigan-Dearborn on Aug. 14 to book a training session for new CBP employees, causing worry among those at the University, a Michigan Journal article reported. The request was immediately denied due to a policy that prohibits renting rooms to organizations not affiliated with the University or the surrounding community.
Maureen Linker, interim director of the Mardigian Library and professor of philosophy at U-M Dearborn, urged all concerned students, faculty and staff to read the University’s public statement released on Aug. 16. The statement reiterated the University’s commitment to protecting students’ private information — including their immigration status — but reminded readers that the three University of Michigan campuses are not classified as “sanctuary” campuses.
CPB Requests a Room on U-M Dearborn's Campus
The statement also noted that CBP, not U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), called campus to request a room booking. Although both organizations operate under the Department of Homeland Security, CBP is solely responsible for border safety and trade. ICE investigates immigration-related issues on a nationwide level and has been criticized for carrying out organized raids against undocumented Americans. Michigan has the second-highest rate of ICE arrests in the country, with 11.6 per 1,000 immigrants apprehended.
The Michigan Journal article, which listed steps students should take if approached by ICE agents. There was also concern ICE raids similar to those this past July in Mississippi could take place on the U-M Dearborn campus. Hani Bawardi, an associate professor of history at U-M Dearborn, said even though CBP was the agency that called campus, any DHS presence on campus can be a legitimate cause for fear.
“It’s no surprise that the students would be very concerned given the current situation,” Bawardi said. “ICE is a very powerful government agency with a six-billion-dollar budget. It is sort of a byproduct of a merger between the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service under the umbrella of Homeland Security, and it has almost unfettered powers.”
ICE Presence in Michigan
According to the 2018 Enforcement and Removal report, ICE made 158,581 administrative arrests in the 2018 fiscal year, as opposed to the 143,470 arrests made in 2017. The number of arrests rose partly in response to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13768, signed Jan. 25, 2017, which stated sanctuary cities not compliant with ICE orders could be denied federal funding.
In the past two years, CBP enforcement has increased, too: In 2017, more than 500,000 total enforcement actions were taken, including apprehensions and administrative arrests at U.S. points of entry, while over 1,000,000 were taken in 2019.
Bawardi said the rise in arrests and apprehensions at the U.S. border sparked conversations at universities nationwide about the best ways to protect students who may be worried about their immigration status.
“Since the consolidation of government agencies and the erosion of civil liberties overall, the question now is, ‘what happened to our institutions?’” Bawardi said. “‘Are they still safeguarding the rights of their constituents? Do students’ rights still matter to the university on the administrative level?’ That, frankly, is not clear.”
Vikash Mehan, LSA senior and co-president of the Ann Arbor campus’ American Civil Liberties Union chapter, said it can often be difficult for universities like the three U-M campuses to offer support to undocumented students when federal funding is involved.
“The University does express a lot of support for these groups, but part of the issue is federal funding and stuff, and we (the University) can’t really go against what the federal government wants,” Mehan said. “So, a lot of (the work) would have to be support of the community around Ann Arbor and around Dearborn, and them giving support to the immigrant populations.”
In 2017, U-M President Mark Schlissel signed a “statement of support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program and our undocumented immigrant students” along with nearly 70 other university administrators across the country. The statement was drafted by Pomona College and called for universities to resist Trump’s attempts to terminate the DACA program. According to a 2017 statement from U-M Public Affairs, the three U-M campuses also comply with a 2011 DHS policy that defines universities as “sensitive locations.” Essentially, this means enforcement actions require special permission from DHS leadership before being carried out.
Maria Ibarra-Frayre, a volunteer with the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights and a School of Social Work alum, said even with these protections many undocumented students live in fear of CBP or ICE being present on campus.
“Regardless of whether or not they called to set up operations or to do a training, for undocumented students and undocumented people, the threat of ICE in general or border patrol being present is scary enough,” Ibarra-Frayre said. “So, they see a border patrol car or an ICE car around, they’re not going to know what they’re doing. But that in and of itself causes a lot of fear.”
She added that the University’s public actions in support of undocumented students are important, but there is still more work to be done to make sure all students feel protected on campus.
“I really appreciate that the universities are taking a stand, and that they’re going public even when it’s a difficult thing to do,” Ibarra-Frayre said.. “Universities are so powerful, and the rest of the state really is looking to the University of Michigan to what is possible to do.”