Border Patrol presence at Glenwood Springs Career Expo raises concern, apologizes
Concerns expressed about the presence of a U.S. Border Patrol agent at Glenwood Springs High School’s Youth Career Fair on Tuesday prompted responses from event organizer and Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez.
“We know the trauma and damage that interactions with agencies like the US Border Patrol can have on some of our students and communities, and for that I sincerely apologize on behalf of the Roaring Fork School District,” Rodríguez wrote in a letter. to neighborhood families on Wednesday.
The Border Patrol recruiter was one of more than 90 exhibitors at the Career Expo, including local, state and federal law enforcement, public safety, corrections and security agencies.
The event, hosted for the first time this year by Carbondale-based Youthentity under the auspices of GlenX after several years, invited high school students from Aspen, Glenwood Springs to learn about a variety of possible career paths.
But the Border Patrol’s presence drew criticism from state Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs, and the Latino group Voces Unidas.
“At a time when our state is advancing legislation to help our immigrant community, inviting this agency into a school’s safe zone sends the opposite message,” Velasco said in a news release Wednesday.
Velasco said he supports the presence of local law enforcement agencies at local career fairs, adding that “public safety is enhanced when the community has a positive relationship with law enforcement,” especially local police agencies.
“However, having classmates wear US Border Patrol vests creates a threatening and divisive environment in the school environment that pits nonimmigrant students against immigrant students,” he said.
Alex Sánchez, President and CEO of Voces Unidas expressed similar concernsHe called the Border Patrol’s decision to enter the exhibit “nonsensical at best.”
“It is unacceptable (by the organizers) to accept the US Border Patrol’s visit to the campus,” Sánchez wrote in a statement posted on the group’s website. “This is a serious breach of community trust and is traumatic for many students and their families.”
McDaniel Youth Executive Director Kirsten Petre also apologized in a statement to the Post Independent on Thursday.
“I sincerely apologize to any students or community members who were unintentionally offended by their presence,” he said. “The purpose of the event is to put students in contact with various professionals, to learn more about their career paths. It includes students who wish to serve their local community, state or country in a law enforcement or military capacity.
“Discussions have already taken place with Superintendent Rodríguez, and we are committed to working more closely together on future events to help all students feel safe.”
Rodriguez also cited the school district’s 2016 resolution, which committed to ensuring a safe haven for immigrant students in neighborhood schools.
“As a result of this week’s Career Expo, we managed to keep at least this commitment in the resolution:
- “Our schools will continue to be safe and supportive spaces for students and community members, free of fear, hostility or violence, including threats of deportation.”
“While there was no direct threat that we know of, nor was any student information shared, we recognize that the Border Patrol’s presence alone can be intimidating to some students,” Rodríguez wrote.
Both Velasco and Sánchez cited a 2012 Roaring Fork School District agreement with local law enforcement agencies to exercise “extraordinary discretion” before assigning a school resource officer to additional police duties involving immigration enforcement that may involve the immigration status of a student’s family.
Tuesday’s Career Expo brought more than 1,200 students to GSHS to visit various information tables and hear keynote speaker Kayleen McCabe, DIY Network’s Rescue Renovation TV host and contractor.
The event, which has been running at GlenX for seven years, “helps expose high school students to a variety of career opportunities and is an opportunity for Valley businesses and organizations to share what they have to offer locally,” said Greg Beachey, director. Youth Vocational Academy.
Post Independent interim managing editor and chief reporter John Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-384-9160.