Thursday, July 2, 2020

ASMSU passes bill to help notify students of ICE on campus

October 18, 2019
Vice President of Governmental Affairs Maysa Sitar, left, and Vice President for Student Allocations Dylan Catalano, right, listen at the ASMSU meeting on Oct. 3, 2019.
Vice President of Governmental Affairs Maysa Sitar, left, and Vice President for Student Allocations Dylan Catalano, right, listen at the ASMSU meeting on Oct. 3, 2019. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Following fear earlier in the day Thursday of the rumored arrival of U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) on campus, the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, passed a bill at their General Assembly meeting that will require the university to notify students if they are informed of ICE coming to campus.

Rumors were shared via social media Thursday that ICE officers were in South Neighborhood. In regards to these rumors, university communications said three U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are on campus to present during a class.

The bill states MSU police officers must accompany ICE officers on campus, and that ASMSU should be notified of their arrival at least two weeks in advance. ASMSU will then alert students through the MSU alert system.

According to Vice President for Governmental Affairs Maysa Sitar, the main objective of this bill is to help MSU students feel safer if ICE were to ever arrive on campus.

“Ideally, if ICE ever does come to campus, (students) will be notified ahead of time so that they can go home if they need to and retrieve any form of identification they might need. And two, they can make sure that they are in a place that they feel safe when ICE comes to campus, that they are prepared, so if ICE does show up and someone has had some sort of past traumatic experience and they realize that they won't be able to deal with that, they can find a friend or go to the library or something," Sitar said. 

The bill is based off of a 2011 memorandum released by ICE that outlines protocols for operating in “sensitive areas."

According to the memo, MSU is defined as a sensitive area due to its status as a university, which means that ICE agents cannot enter campus unless exigent circumstances exist or if they obtain prior approval.

Sitar, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the memo states that ICE must obtain prior approval from the university before entering campus.

The bill is written so that MSU would be required to notify ASMSU as soon as they receive the notification of prior approval. However, questions were raised about whether or not the memorandum actually does explicitly require prior approval from the university itself.

The memo reads,  “Any planned enforcement action at or focused on a sensitive location covered by this policy must have prior approval of one of the following officials: the Assistant Director of Operations, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Executive Associate Director (EAD) of HSI; the Assistant Director for Field Operations, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO); or the EAD of ERO.” 

Ryan Aridi, a representative for the College of Engineering, argued that the memo outlines a requirement for prior approval from ICE supervisors before entering a sensitive location, but does not state that the university needs to be notified. 

“Upon my one-to-two hour analysis of the memorandum, in that section that it outlines permission and who is responsible for giving permission, I did not get (that the university must be notified) from the text,” Aridi said. “It actually has a full sentence that lists who has to give permission, and they’re all basically different governmental directors or agencies that are in charge of ICE and border security.”

Because of this possible discrepancy, it is unclear whether MSU can enforce the bill. If ICE is not required to contact the university before arrival, there is no way to guarantee a two-week period of notice. Aridi believes that in the end, ICE would prevail because they have priority as a government agency. 

“It’s very important, because when we pass legislation and such, we need to think about all the context,” Aridi said. “This is my conjecture — (ICE) likely wouldn’t even contact MSU, they would just kinda show up, grab their targets, and then leave as quietly and as secretly as possible ... can MSU realistically enforce anything like (this bill)? I’m personally very doubtful, seeing as (ICE) is a government agency and such.”

Though some of the details are still unclear, the bill itself represents a huge victory for undocumented students, ASMSU said.

Current ASMSU President Mario Kakos says the legislation is just the first step in creating a clear policy for ICE on campus.

“ASMSU represents all students, and that includes undocumented students, so we're interested in their safety and well-being in order to learn in a proactive and productive environment,” Kakos said. "This shows that we stand in solidarity with students, allies, undocumented or otherwise that we do hear their concerns, we do support them. You know, this all transpired in less than 24 hours, so we definitely plan on working more to ensure that in future cases or scenarios that may occur that we have a process in order to avoid as much mass hysteria as possible."

Reports of ICE’s arrival on campus on Thursday caused panic and fear among many students. Miracle Chatman, chief diversity and inclusion officer, said that students don’t need to be scared  — ASMSU is here to help them. 

“I want students to be encouraged to know their rights," Chatman said. "They don't have to feel anxious, there are support people here for them."

Editor's note: Edwin Jaramillo, who introduced the bill at the meeting, is a reporter at The State News.

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