This Rutgers student won’t stand alone

May 1, 2017

Students and professors are showing solidarity with a student activist who could be deported, reports Sherry Wolf, a senior organizer for the Rutgers faculty union.

CARIMER ANDUJAR, a prominent student activist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, is under threat of deportation--but the response from faculty and students in her defense was immediate.

On just 10 hours' notice, more than 150 students and professors crammed into the Rutgers faculty union office on April 25 to plan how they would defend their friend and comrade.

Faced with the possibility of detention and even deportation at a mandatory interview with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation officer May 9, Carimer chose to go public with her case.

Though Carimer has dutifully filed all paperwork to renew her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, it has now expired, leaving her even more vulnerable. Especially now, after another DACA student was deported, every knock at the door can be an anxiety-filled experience.

Carimer came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic with her family at the age of 4. As she puts it, "No one can tell me that this is not my home and that I don't belong here."

Carimer Andujar
Carimer Andujar (Sherry Wolf)

The overwhelming solidarity at Rutgers from members of United Students against Sweatshops, Students for Justice in Palestine, the University Senate, the Muslim Student Association and many others isn't surprising.

Days after Trump was elected president in November, when more than 2,000 students and faculty at Rutgers University walked out of class to demand the school become a sanctuary campus, Carimer was among those leading the largest protest the campus had experienced in decades.

Two months after the walkout for sanctuary, Carimer stood alongside Arab and Muslim students and professors at another mass rally and march, demanding "No ban. No wall." And Carimer is a familiar face at the faculty union, the AAUP-AFT, where she participates in social and economic justice organizing with the students, staff and faculty of the Rutgers One coalition.

As president of UndocuRutgers, which represents more than 400 undocumented Rutgers students, Carimer is an outspoken advocate for human rights. Her group was formed out of a successful battle against Gov. Chris Christie to win in-state tuition for undocumented students at New Jersey public universities.

Now, the 21-year-old engineering major with a minor in Latin American Studies is asking for solidarity and has launched a #HandsOffCarimer campaign. Carimer will be a featured speaker at the campus' May Day action and is asking supporters to stand with her when she appears for her interview with ICE on May 9 at 9 a.m. at its state headquarters in the Federal Building in Newark.

THOUGH ATTORNEY General Jeff Sessions denies that DACA students are being targeted, when he was pressed to clarify the administration's policy on April 20, he responded:

The policy is that if people are here unlawfully, they're subject to being deported. Our priority is clear. Our priority is to end the lawlessness at the border, stop the additional flow of illegals into the country and then to prioritize those who have gotten into trouble with the law, recent arrivals, people who have been deported previously, drug dealers, and other criminal activists.

But you know, we can't promise people who are here unlawfully that they're not going to be deported.

The DACA program was created by President Barack Obama and allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and work legally. But DACA is not the armor many perceive it to be. There is no path to citizenship or guaranteed protections of any kind.

It's precisely for this reason that immigrant groups and national unions, including the American Federation of Teachers, appealed to the outgoing Obama administration to either grant a mass pardon for the civil offense committed as children or destroy all DACA records, to avoid any potential dragnet by ICE against the more than 750,000 DACA recipients by the incoming Trump administration.

Obama's administration chose to do nothing to protect these people who arrived in the country as children and, arguably as minors under U.S. law, cannot be held responsible for their actions.

Carimer is the first to note that her situation at Rutgers allows her to have a higher profile and more easily build a robust public campaign. "I'm unusual because I have access to so many resources, but if the attention I get can help others as well as myself, that's great."

As a popular student activist well known to unionized faculty and staff ,with legal, political and media connections, Carimer is in a position to effectively defend herself and create a model of defense for the 400 other undocumented students at the university, and others in the community as well.

The faculty union office has been abuzz with students making flyers to promote May Day, and Carimer's case has received positive media coverage.

New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, as well as Rep. Frank Pallone, have staff involved in trying to expedite Carimer's paperwork and make it known to ICE that they are tracking her case and oppose any action against her. The national AFT leadership is asking members on social media to create #HandsOffCarimer selfies, and the union's legal staff have extended their help.

There is no way of knowing for sure whether Carimer is being randomly targeted out of a bureaucratic error or due to her political outspokenness. But if the aim of targeting DACA activists is to mute them and other would-be-activists, then Carimer isn't allowing them to intimidate her into silence.

"Although the exact reason why I have to appear before a deportation officer is still unknown, ICE communicated to Senator Menendez's chief attorney that they do not intend on detaining or deporting me," said Carimer. "Let's make sure we hold ICE accountable, and ensure that they keep their word!"

The next big step for the #HandsOffCarimer campaign is an all-out call for May Day on Rutgers' College Avenue campus from 12 noon to 1 p.m. on Voorhees Mall.

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