[Marxism] Criminal Charges Against Arizona Students Were Dropped. But the Controversy Endures.

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 29 06:54:15 MDT 2019

Chronicle of Higher Education, APRIL 25, 2019  PREMIUM
Criminal Charges Against Arizona Students Were Dropped. But the 
Controversy Endures.
By Katherine Mangan

One by one, students stood up to describe the fear and anxiety they felt 
whenever they encountered an armed, uniformed agent from the U.S. Border 
Patrol. The University of Arizona’s Tucson campus, just 70 miles from 
the Mexican border, is one place, they said, where they shouldn’t have 
to worry about friends or relatives being rounded up and deported.

This week’s “campus conversation” was the first public forum since three 
student protesters were arrested this month for interrupting a class 
presentation by two such agents. At least one of the students called 
them “murder patrol” and “an extension of the KKK,” filming the taunts 
through the open door of a classroom and then following the agents, 
along with other students, to their car.

The Pima County Attorney’s Office dropped the charges against the 
students, but they are still being investigated for possible violations 
of the student-conduct code. Emotions remain raw at this 
Hispanic-serving university in a deep-red state with some of the 
nation’s toughest immigration laws.

“It just sounds ridiculous that two fully armed, uniformed agents would 
be intimidated or harassed by a student who's 5-5 and only carries a phone.”

The university’s president, Robert C. Robbins, began by assuring 
students that he recognized both their First Amendment right to protest 
and the very real fears of both documented and undocumented students.

“We have to make sure we provide support and safety for those who don’t 
feel safe and who have fear,” he said. “But at the same time, there are 
rules, and we will obey the law.”

He went on to say that he “absolutely” supports free speech and the 
right to protest. “Without question, it’s the bedrock of our democracy,” 
he said.

Students who were angry about the university’s decision to arrest the 
students demanded an apology from the president and an assurance that 
future protests would be allowed, and that Border Patrol visits would not.

While Robbins conceded that unspecified mistakes had been made, he 
offered no apology and could give no assurance that the Border Patrol 
wouldn’t show up again. The agents had been invited by a student club — 
the Criminal Justice Association — to talk about careers in criminal law 

The students’ protest, some students at the forum argued, was an 
overreaction that only stoked fear and misunderstanding.

The president of the campus’s College Republicans chapter, Matthew 
Minor, accused some activists of “relentless fear-mongering” and 
spreading “the misconception” that immigration and Border Patrol agents 
“can just come here and abduct you.” Minor added that “the men in 
uniform should not be banished just because someone disagrees with them.”

Three students, Denisse Moreno Melchor, Mariel Alexandra Bustamante, and 
Marianna Ariel Coles-Curtis, were issued misdemeanor citations by the 
university police this month for interfering with the peaceful conduct 
of an educational institution. Moreno, 20, was also cited for threats 
and intimidation.

“It just sounds ridiculous that two fully armed, uniformed agents would 
be intimidated or harassed by a student who’s 5-5 and only carries a 
phone,” Moreno said in an interview on Thursday. “No one was in any 
danger. I didn’t even enter the classroom.”

After students in the classroom called the campus police, they responded 
but didn’t take down her name or indicate they planned to press charges, 
Moreno said. Charges were filed more than a week later, after Customs 
and Border Protection officials complained to the university, she said.

The county attorney’s office said prosecutors later asked that the 
misdemeanor charges against the three students be dismissed because the 
university is conducting its own investigation.

Robbins has denied succumbing to pressure from customs officials and 
said the charges had been filed only after the university had completed 
its initial investigation.

“At the core of these inquiries is the University of Arizona’s 
commitment to free speech,” Robbins wrote in a statement last month. 
“The student club and the CBP officers invited by the students should 
have been able to hold their meeting without disruption. Student protest 
is protected by our support for free speech, but disruption is not.”

Border agents aren’t the only ones who have been pressuring the 
university to crack down on activists. Four Republican state lawmakers 
released a statement on Tuesday criticizing the decision to drop the 
criminal charges.

They lambasted faculty members for defending the students and, as they 
saw it, challenging the president’s authority, hinting that it could 
hurt his chances of getting state money for the university. The 
lawmakers added that “if it becomes necessary to terminate the 
employment of professors, tenured or not, for interfering with 
university operations, we will stand with President Robbins and the 
decisions he makes.”

Some Republican students who spoke at the meeting said they also felt 
threatened because their views, in this heated climate, were being 
dismissed as racist. Nolan L. Cabrera, an associate professor in the 
Center for the Study of Higher Education, called their complaints a 
“false equivalency” with the tangible threats undocumented and even 
documented students face on a regular basis.

Cabrera, one of several university officials and faculty members 
fielding questions from the audience, pushed back on complaints that the 
protesters had been acting irrationally while the students in the class 
remained calm.

“It’s very easy to remain calm and even-keeled when you’re not the one 
being targeted, when you’re not under the threat of your family being 
separated,” he said. “The question is, who is under threat, especially 
in this border region? It’s brown-skinned folks.”

During this week’s forum, students played a clip from a radio interview 
in which Art Del Cueto, president of the local chapter of a Border 
Patrol union, said he would have punched a protester who yelled at him, 
in the throat.

In an interview on Thursday, Del Cueto didn’t deny saying that but said 
the context was important. “They followed these agents down the hall 
screaming and yelling at them, and then swearing at them in Spanish. If 
you are a regular person and not in uniform and someone approaches you 
in that manner and continues to harass you and follow you down the hall, 
you’re going to have a physical confrontation,” he said. “They were 
invited there. It’s not like they were there to do a sweep.”

Del Cueto said he had reached out to Judicial Watch, a conservative 
activist group, and together they wrote a letter urging the university 
to investigate the students’ conduct.

When Del Cueto urged radio listeners to send him the names and addresses 
of any “illegal aliens” at the university so he could tell them the next 
time border agents were coming, he said he was joking. “Who’s going to 
give me those names? The whole thing’s insane anyway. It’s like we’re 
going to give the criminals a heads-up.”

Katherine Mangan writes about community colleges, completion efforts, 
and job training, as well as other topics in daily news. Follow her on 
Twitter @KatherineMangan, or email her at katherine.mangan at chronicle.com.

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