The University of Arizona is investigating at least one student after an on-campus encounter with two Border Patrol agents last week.
The investigation came after a career-day event where agents spoke to criminal-justice students. A video posted online shows a student interrupting the agents’ presentation March 19 and calling the Border Patrol an “extension of the KKK,” which sparked an online backlash that connected the student’s comments to a wide-ranging debate over free speech on college campuses.
The head of the local union chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, agent Art Del Cueto, called on the university to investigate whether students violated the university’s code of conduct or state law regarding disorderly conduct.
The agents were invited to speak with criminal-justice students as part of a career day on campus, but they were interrupted by a student who used a cellphone to film them, according to a March 25 letter written by Mark Spencer, Southwest projects coordinator with the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, on behalf of Del Cueto.
After the agents left the classroom, the student followed them and “with a loud voice repeatedly shouted at the agents ‘Murder Patrol,’” according to the letter.
“The UA Police Department is investigating the incident for potential criminal violations by the students, and the Office of the Dean of Students also is reviewing potential violations of the student code of conduct,” according to a statement from Pam Scott, associate vice president of external communications at the UA.
UA President Robert C. Robbins met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees in Tucson on Monday to “discuss the issue, and we reiterated our appreciation for our relationship and their contribution,” Scott said.
The video of the encounter on campus went viral online. For some conservative news outlets, it served as the latest example of harassment by “far left” students, which has become a cultural flashpoint.
Last week, President Trump signed an executive order to ensure any school that receives federal research funds would agree to protect free speech.
The student told the Daily Wildcat campus newspaper that she “started chanting, disrupting that space until they left. Literally walked them all the way to their cars until they left.”
The students who invited the agents to speak were members of the Criminal Justice Association, a student-run club. The president of the club told the Wildcat she felt the student violated the First Amendment rights of the club and the agents.
The Arizona Daily Star is not naming the student unless she is criminally charged or can be reached for comment.
The video showed the student filming the agents’ presentation from the hallway outside the classroom. After members of the club approached her, the student asked the agents about destroying water bottles in the desert and “all the graves of unidentified folks” who died in the desert.
The video showed the agents leaving the classroom, walking out of the building and driving away while the student, and apparently several other students, chanted “murder patrol.” The agents did not appear to engage directly with the student who was filming them.
Del Cueto’s letter also expressed concern about a letter from the Associated Students of the University of Arizona regarding the presence of Border Patrol agents on campus.
The student group had issued a letter saying they recognized the agents’ presence at the job fair was “solely to recruit students to join their workforce,” but “the presence of uniformed USBP agents on our campus, especially without warning was, is, and will always be immensely harmful to our DACA and undocumented community.”
DACA refers to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that provides legal protection for people who as children were brought into the United States illegally by their parents and meet certain requirements, such as a clean criminal record.
In a March 22 letter to students and staff, Robbins said, “Providing a safe environment for students to pursue their education is my top priority.” He also said, “All members of our campus community should be able to engage with a variety of viewpoints and positions and express themselves as well.”
Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or email@example.com or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar