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ICE Agent at Northwestern Shut Out of Class

May 18, 2017
 
 

Students at Northwestern University drove out a representative from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who was due to speak to a sociology class Tuesday.

Groups like MEChA de Northwestern, which represents Chicano culture, and the campus chapter of Black Lives Matter had organized a demonstration against the ICE public relations representative who had planned to address the class of Beth Redbird, a fellow in the department of sociology.

Protests began outside and later moved into Redbird’s classroom, where students interrupted the talk, forcing the representative to leave. A video of the protest outside shows students holding a large banner that read “No More Deportations.”

A statement posted on the MEChA de Northwestern Facebook page called the presence of ICE on campus “irresponsible.”

“Dialogue with any ICE official legitimizes their position as state actors of violence,” the statement reads in part. “The presence of an ICE PR agent whose sole purpose is to make ICE ‘look good’ and recruit students implies university complicity and encouragement of the actions of this organization. We do not engage in conversations with ICE in any way, shape or form regardless of their position.”

In the statement, the groups demanded the university be made a sanctuary campus that offers certain protections for undocumented students from federal agencies seeking to deport them, and a resource center be created specifically for those undocumented students. Evanston, where Northwestern is located, is considered a sanctuary city.

Redbird directed a request for comment to a university spokesman, who emailed a joint statement from Morton Schapiro, Northwestern’s president, and Daniel Linzer, its provost.

In full, it reads, “We are deeply disappointed in the conduct of a group of students Tuesday that resulted in the disruption of a lecture in a Northwestern University class. The behavior of our students in this incident was disrespectful, inappropriate and contrary to the values of the university.

“At Northwestern, our faculty members are free to encourage academic discussions within their classrooms, including inviting speakers of their choice. While we understand the point of view expressed by the students protesting the guest lecturers invited to speak here, the resulting disturbance not only limited the academic inquiry central to our campus, it also forced invited speakers to leave and violated the rights of other enrolled students who were present to learn.

“We recognize the need for robust discussion about difficult and, at times, polarizing issues. Free expression must be protected and should be countered with more debate, close examination and critical thinking -- not censorship.

“Northwestern is carefully reviewing the facts around Tuesday’s events in order to determine the appropriate actions to be taken by the university.”

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