Incidents on campus unnerve undocumented students

State Hornet Staff

Sacramento State is endeavoring to be a diverse, inclusive campus community, but some undocumented students do not feel safe.

On Wednesday, March 9, Rosa Isela Barrientos, a junior majoring in Chicano studies and government, said she walked by a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol car parked in the vicinity of the WELL. As one of the 800 undocumented students currently attending Sac State, Barrientos feared not only for her safety, but also for the safety of her family and her fellow undocumented students.

“This is very problematic because this campus is supposed to be a safe place,” Barrientos said. “This is a learning institution; we should not question our safety.”

Every department at Sac State was alerted to the situation and President Robert Nelsen and Leslie Davis, the executive director of the WELL, were also informed about the presence of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol car.

“Sacramento State is a public space and anyone is allowed to visit our campus,” Davis said.

According to the university, an investigation into the occurrence was open for two days. The Sac State Police Department and the Sacramento branch of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

President Nelsen sent an email to students on Friday, March 9, explaining the presence of the patrol car. 

“We have confirmed that the aforementioned vehicle was here as part of a physical fitness test for potential federal employees. It was not here in association with any operations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency,” Nelsen said in an email.

The threat to undocumented students, however, is still present according to Barrientos.

“An email was sent out [to undocumented students] through the Division of Student Affairs,” Barrientos said. “[It was] from a graduate student who was doing their research on undocumented students. This means that we are all coded; the university knows and has the information of all AB540 students or those who qualify for the California Dream application.”

Barrientos stated that she was uncertain of the graduate student’s intentions, but still expressed concern over their ability to access students’ emails.

“Other students who are doing research have reached out to LEAD [Empower, and Reach Out with Determination] and [found out that] this individual had the power to access our Sac State emails,” said Barrientos. “The Division of Student Affairs should be and has to be more careful on who is given access to student emails.”

In order to rectify the situation and create a safer campus environment for undocumented students, Margarita Berta-Avila, a professor of education, proposed making Sac State a “sanctuary campus”.

“We move that Sacramento State become a sanctuary, similar to the city of San Francisco,” said Berta-Avila during the March 10 Faculty Senate meeting. “We began those dialogues today and we’ll ask the Senate for comparable resolution in that effect.”

To find out more about the challenges facing undocumented students at Sac State and the university’s push to make the campus a safe haven for all students, read future editions of the The State Hornet.

Updated 7:09 p.m. March 17 to reflect additional information