Under pressure from immigrant students and administrators at Rutgers University in Newark — the most ethnically diverse campus in the country — Immigration and Customs Enforcement is backing out of an annual appearance at an upcoming career fair.
In a statement, ICE said it "voluntarily withdrew from participation" following a request by Rutgers officials, and added that "it is unfortunate that the university is disregarding the needs of those students who seek a career with ICE." The statement noted that Rutgers alumni work throughout the agency, including as "detention and deportation officers enforcing our nation's immigration laws."
Neither deportation officers nor the country's immigration laws as enforced by the Trump Administration are popular on diverse campuses like Newark's — a point made by Rutgers-Newark in its own statement saying it "strongly supports undocumented students." The university highlighted the creation of the campus group UndocuRutgers and said it provides students access to immigration lawyers.
ICE's absence from the career fair appears to have been prompted by an online petition from so-called Dreamers, young people who were brought to the country as children and lack legal status. President Donald Trump stripped the legal protection they were afforded under the Obama Administration, and Congress has yet to approve a bill giving them a path to citizenship.
ICE's Newark-based legal research office was slated to join about 30 government agencies and nonprofits at Thursday's career fair, according to Rutgers. But after consultation with university officials, Rutgers said that ICE "concluded their presence at the career fair at this point would run counter to their goals to recruit students at this event and to the spirit of the event, so they withdrew from participation."
With their residency status now in jeopardy, Dreamers fear deportation by ICE, which has dramatically increased operations in communities in New Jersey and throughout the country. The number of arrests by ICE officers based in Newark jumped 35 percent in the 2017 fiscal year, and deportations increased by 31 percent.
The reason for the spike in ICE activity is largely due to a Trump executive order making anyone living in the country without legal documentation subject to deportation. Previously, those with criminal convictions were prioritized. In 2017, 40 percent of undocumented immigrants arrested in New Jersey did not have prior criminal convictions. That was the highest percentage nationwide.