The issue of immigration is one of the most divisive in the country. Here in Arizona, it hits close to home. Emotions run high on both sides, and anger is often directed at the people whose job it is to patrol the border and enforce the laws.
Recently, as two Border Patrol agents spoke to a group at the University of Arizona, protestors shouted them down to the point where they had to leave the event, which was hosted by a club on the Tucson campus. As they were leaving, protestors followed them to their vehicle. The incident was captured by one student on video.
Three students involved in the protest were arrested and charged with interfering with peaceful conduct at an educational institution — a misdemeanor. Two of those students argue that the agents work for an agency that’s “one of the main culprits for the separation of families.”
However, students and immigrant rights advocates are pressuring UA officials not to pursue the charges. They contend that the protestors were exercising their right to free speech. They also argue that inviting agents to the university instills fear in students who are immigrants. The arrests have prompted more protests on campus and at a recent Board of Regents meeting.
It’s not just Arizona students who say that visiting agents who work for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inspire fear — whether they intend to or not. In Virginia, parents of middle school students complained when they learned that an ICE agent had given a presentation to students about his job.
One union official in Tucson says that agents are also in fear for their safety in the current political climate. He says, “They’re hard-working agents and they believe in the job that they’re doing and what they do is within the law.”
This country has a long history of protest — and an equally long history of people being arrested on one charge or another for exercising their right to protest, even when the protest is entirely peaceful.
While being arrested for speaking out on an issue you believe in may seem like a badge of honor, it can be costly — financially and in its impact on your future. That’s why it’s always wise, no matter what charges you’re facing, to seek legal guidance.