Latino students shaken, Roaring Fork Schools administration remorseful after career expo, Border Patrol included

Screen shot 2023 03 23 at 8. 59. 35 pm
U.S. Border Agent and Recruiter Luis Bustamante speaks to students at Tuesday’s Glenwood Springs High School Career Expo.
John Stroud/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Latino students have been outraged, and after a career fair at Glenwood Springs High School the school district apologized and joined a panel with agents from the Border Patrol, the agency under US Customs and Border Protection.

“Why the hell was the Border Patrol there? For what reason are they here? Why, in this predominantly Latino school? Something we’ve always been taught is like this fear of deportation, documented or undocumented,” asked one student. “I have to change something to be able to feel safe at school knowing that my race, my ethnicity is not a problem.”

The annual career fair is intended to be a fun and educational way to introduce Roaring Fork School District High School students to job opportunities in the valley and beyond. Students chat with representatives from more than 100 employers while picking up free merchandise and leaving morning classes with their classmates.

But at Tuesday’s event, the mood changed when the students realized that the agency responsible for detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants was sitting among employers.

How the Border Patrol came to be there?

This is the first year the school has partnered with Carbondale-based Youthentity to host the expo after several years with GlenX. Law enforcement and public safety employers are regular features of the expo, but this is the first year the Border Patrol has appeared.

“In previous years, Glenwood Springs High School looked at that list (of employers) in advance. This year, we didn’t,” said Roaring Fork Schoold public information officer Kelsy Been. “So, of course, in future years we have to make sure that we are working more closely with Gaztedia, and that way we can see who will be there before the day.”

He said they deeply regret the oversight of the schools and neighborhoods and are committed to ensuring that the Border Patrol will never again participate in a job fair or anything similar.

Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez apologized statement Wednesday, and reaffirmed the district’s commitment to ensure that students “feel safe from threats of fear, hostility or violence, including the threat of expulsion.”

“I think (the district is feeling) remorseful and apologetic. I know Dr. Rodriguez believes that even if one student felt safe, we messed it up,” Beene said. “And even if we weren’t at the table looking at who would be at the career fair, we should be. And we will be next time.’

A shared statement From District Directors via email:

Youth Director Kirsten McDaniel declined an interview, but issued this statement via email: “Earlier this week, the first Career Expo for Youth was held at Glenwood Springs High School. There were over 90 exhibitors including the US Border Patrol. Our deepest apologies I urge students or community members who may have been inadvertently hurt by their presence. The purpose of the event is to connect students with a variety of professionals to learn more about their career paths. This includes students who wish to serve their local community, state or country in law enforcement or the military. Discussions are already underway. with Dr. Rodriguez and we are committed to working more closely together on future events to help all students feel safe.”

In an email to The Times, Jason Givens of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol wrote, “CBP participates in many career fairs at colleges, universities, high schools and other locations across the nation. has some great options available, offering competitive salaries and an exceptional benefits package. CBP representatives attend career fairs to benefit students who may be seeking a career in law enforcement or public service within the federal government. CBP representatives attend career fairs only to discuss employment opportunities are there, and not for law enforcement activities.”

The Border Patrol’s presence drew criticism from state Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs, and the Latino group Voces Unidas.

Latin student reactions

Roaring Fork School District’s student body is 55% Hispanic as of the 2021-22 school year, while Glenwood Springs High School’s makeup is about 51%.

As a majority-minority school and district, Latino students said they expected more care and sensitivity from their school.

The Times is using pseudonyms for the students because they are minors and fear some family members could be at risk by identifying them in connection with their immigration status.

“I didn’t see it right away. But I heard from a friend when I walked into the main gym that the Border Patrol was at the Career Expo,” said Adrian, 16. “For any Latino, it’s crazy to see because it’s basically ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement). . … It’s scary to think that at my school, where I went to the Career Expo to see if there was a job I was interested in, but I go see it (Border Patrol). It made me feel very insecure.”

He said his uncle’s deportation brought back traumatic memories from several years ago, and that there are members of his family whose immigration status is insecure.

Another student, Vanessa, On the 17th, he said the sight of the Border Patrol agent and the desk scared him.

“I’ll be honest, being from a family of immigrants, I was faster than other things,” he recalled. “I avoided that area and left as fast as I could. … It’s something that makes me nervous, fear.”

Adding a layer of fear, a few weeks earlier, she had asked some of her teachers to help her write hardship letters to help with her father’s immigration case. The letters show the federal government how deporting a person would do more harm than good.

Vanessa said that asking her teachers to help with those letters was very difficult.

“It’s something you’ve always been taught to keep to yourself. You don’t tell other people that you have undocumented parents. You don’t tell people that you are things like that or that there’s a possibility of deportation in your family, for example, you keep that to yourself,” she said. “Having to tell my teachers was very hard and very uncomfortable for me. Especially when they asked me about it, the interview I was trying to get it over with as quickly as possible. After all that stress and discomfort, seeing the Border Patrol at school was just an anxiety (affecting) thing. It made me nervous and I didn’t want to be there.”

For 16-year-old Samuel, seeing Border Patrol at the exhibit was disturbing, but not surprising.

He said he believes Latinos are often the target of racist behavior at school. Vanessa has admitted that she saw it too.

At the student/parent Infinite Campus, Samuel said he saw and heard from friends that teachers’ comments changed dramatically for minority students up to elementary school.

“Comments like: ‘he doesn’t pay attention, noisy, disorganized’. When you compare that to white kids … it’s not as bad as it is for Latinos,” he said. “And racism has made a big comeback in school too. Even at the Career Expo the police were handing out Blue Lives Matter stickers.”

“Blue Lives Matter,” referring to the “blue” lives of law enforcement, is seen by many police reform advocates as disrespectful to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Aside from the Latino staff, Samuel said he doesn’t feel like the school has a strong support system among the teachers. And while no one in his family is undocumented, Samuel expressed fear for children who have just arrived in the country or who may question their immigration status.

“Being a new immigrant, and there are a lot of them in our schools, and basically having to see your archenemy there … you’d want to go further away from the school,” he said.

In an email to The Times via Bee, Glenwood Springs High School Principal Paul Freeman wrote, “Every day we are committed to helping all of our students. Racism will not be tolerated. We always encourage students to tell a trusted adult or through Safe2Tell. that they report any wrongdoing”.

All three students agreed that it will take a long time and more action to regain confidence that they will keep their school safe, although they were eager to blame Superintendent Rodríguez.

“I don’t think a Latino should apologize for an oversight that affects Latinos,” Samuel said.

A topic that has been debated for a long time

There have been debates about the role of immigration enforcement in schools spread out years in the Roaring Fork Valley. And after some advocacy groups called for the separation of school resource officers and immigration enforcement, an agreement was reached to stop sharing information between the agencies. But not an official deal.

“No deal has been signed,” Beene said. “We certainly have a working agreement with our local law enforcement agencies. One of the reasons for not signing the current agreement was the cost associated with it. So I think they’re working as if we have an agreement signed by both parties, so it’s not just a handshake. I think we are all following our agreement. But I think there is only one part about the financing that has prevented the signature from entering that document.”

He said disagreements over what the school district pays each local law enforcement agency as school resource officers are why the MOU hasn’t been officially signed.

The school district does not track and cannot legally inquire about a student’s legal status or anything their guardian has to say.

In 2016, it was approved by the Board of Education Safe Haven resolution. And they passed one recently politics that participation in law enforcement schools cannot be tied to immigration. It has been said that the district sees the resolution of the Border Patrol incident as a failure.

“When we think about why that problem happened, it’s not because of the violation of the MOU, not with the SROs or the Youth,” he said. “We believe it is a violation of our resolution that our students feel safe in our schools, free from resolution, without fear, hostility or violence, including the threat of deportation.”

Related Articles

Sorry, delete AdBlocks

Add Ban ads I wish to close them