Community comes together to prevent ICE from detaining undocumented Rutgers student
In response to threats of deportation aimed at Rutgers student Carimer Andujar, more than 150 members of the University’s community organized at the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) headquarters on Tuesday night to prepare a course of action.
Spilling out of the main room and into the stairwell, the group planned the logistics of two rallies. One is currently scheduled to take place in Voorhees Mall on May 1 and the other will intersect with Andujar’s meeting with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on May 9.
Andujar’s situation first became public around 10 a.m. on Tuesday when the AAUP-AFT posted on Facebook. The School of Engineering junior received a letter about two months ago requesting her presence at an interview in Newark on May 9 with a deportation officer. The meeting is now less than two weeks away.
The AAUP-AFT used the hashtag #HandsOffCarimer in their post about Andujar and within 12 hours, it was shared more than 200 times.
Her story received much more attention than Andujar expected. She said she was humbled by the fact that students went beyond social media to attend the event and stand in solidarity with her.
“We have had a couple of emails that have been sent out in support of undocumented students but this is the first time in which the administration is going to be held accountable and asked to show their support instead of just typing it in an email," Andujar said. "This is kind of like, when the going gets tough, are you going to stand behind me as a student or are you going to backtrack and not stand behind me?”
Andujar said she has been an occupant of the United States since she was 4 years old. She was able to attend Rutgers University under the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act, which was passed by former President Barack Obama in June of 2012.
Her DACA registration was originally set to expire this Friday, April 28, and she filed to renew it over five months ago in December, she said.
“It just was not coming, which was alarming. And then, in addition to that, I was also informed of the deportation order from five years ago. So this became a very serious, serious situation which is why I called you all of here,” Andujar said to the crowd.
Andujar just heard that her registration was extended last night, she said, which relieves a little bit of the tension from the situation. Instead of deportation, Andujar is now only at risk for detention.
But she said the prospect of being held in detention is still particularly frightening because she could walk into a federal building on May 9 and be held there.
Senior Organizer for the Rutgers AAUP-AFT Sherry Wolf likened the de-escalation of the Andujar’s situation as going from “Defcon 1 to Defcon 3.”
“This is a moment we could use to show solidarity because, as Andujar said, she’s stepping into a federal building and although she is not facing deportation, she’s still facing detention and that’s still very serious,” said Josue Serrano, vice president of UndocuRutgers and a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “She’s a student, she has a life, she has school work, everything, and this is not something we can continue to allow to happen, especially for the other undocumented immigrants who may be students, may be activists or who may also be regular, everyday, working people just trying to make a living.”
Serrano said the community’s turnout to Tuesday night’s event made him optimistic about the forthcoming marches.
In a statement to The Daily Targum, University spokesperson Karen Smith discussed Andujar’s situation in the context of the ICE raids that took place in New Brunswick less than one week ago.
“The reported increase in immigration enforcement actions in the New Brunswick area has caused distress among members of the Rutgers community, regardless of their immigration status. Obviously, the stress and anxiety are even greater for those students who are undocumented but believe that they are afforded the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program,” Smith said. “We have been aggressive in our commitment to protecting student privacy and to providing legal resources and other assistance to any students affected by these actions and we will continue to do so."
David Hughes, the president of AAUP-AFT, said the University’s solidarity with Andujar is important right now because of the precedent that it will set.
“We understand that an injury to one is an injury to all. If the Trump administration deports Carimer, they may soon try to do so to other Rutgers students, faculty, or staff. We have to stand together against a president who clearly wishes to divide the Rutgers community along lines of race, sex, gender identity and national origin,” Hughes said. “We have to stick together. A large and vocal reaction — especially if President Barchi joins it — may well protect Carimer and those in line after her.”
According to recent estimates, there are about 450 undocumented students currently attending Rutgers.
As president of UndocuRutgers, Andujar was one of the primary organizers of the “sanctuary” marches that took place on campus last year. The protests pushed administrators to implement protective measures for undocumented students.
In December, ongoing protests culminated to President Robert L. Barchi referring to the school as a “safe haven.” He later elaborated on this in an email, saying “Rutgers is and will always be a sanctuary that supports and enables their (undocumented students’) education, intellectual growth and personal well-being.”
Barchi has not yet made a personal comment on Andujar’s situation.
“I don’t believe that ICE has received information from the Rutgers administration. Old Queens appears still to providing the protection of a sanctuary campus. In that spirit, we urge President Barchi to issue a statement appealing to ICE to allow Carimer to remain in the United States and enrolled at Rutgers,” Hughes said. “I should hope he would do so for any Rutgers student. Carimer, though, has made enormous contributions to the welfare of Rutgers students. The University owes her its strongest defense.”
In her speech, Andujar said her legal counsel had told her that she was likely targeted by ICE because of her extreme activism on campus and involvement in aiding undocumented immigrants and students.
As a DACA recipient who has not committed a crime, she said she should not be targeted by ICE, and has been told by multiple lawyers that there were not many other reasons for ICE to take particular interest in her.
“Some of you may have heard me speak at marches, I was at the sanctuary campus march which was about 2,000 students strong. So, they believe the reason they’re coming after me and targeting me is because I have chosen to speak out … So what they believe is happening is an intimidation tactic and it’s important to let them know that intimidation is not going to work, and the reason why it isn’t going to work is that this is my home. So if I feel as though it is threatened, I am willing to fight for it — what they want to do is quell these protests, but they don’t understand that this is going to inflame them more,” Andujar said.
Andujar said she feels particularly lucky because her DACA has been approved. Not everyone in her situation is that lucky, she said, so she wants to make sure the community knows that if ICE tries to come after someone in her situation, it will not work and that the community will band together to ensure ICE does not target any more undocumented activists.
On Friday, Rutgers AAUP-AFT will be holding a poster-making session to make banners and posters for Monday’s rally.
On May 1, staff, students and community members will meet to rally on Voorhees Mall from 12 to 1 p.m., before taking buses to Newark to join another rally at 2 p.m. at Lincoln Park.
Andujar said that sometimes people do not realize how serious a situation is until something actually happens, and stressed the importance of staying proactive. She said people are reluctant to do anything until it hits home, as it did for many members of the Rutgers community when it affected her. She reminded the audience to remember the undocumented immigrants and students that they might not know, but are still in need of assistance.
“Because, like I said, I am extremely privileged because I am undocumented and I’m attaining a higher education at a leading research University,” Andujar said. “But there’s still people who don’t have the opportunity to go to college that still need our assistance, and let’s not forget about them.”
Kira Herzog is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is the news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @kiraherzog1 for more.
Chloe Dopico is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is the associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @ChloeDopico for more.