Last Thursday, at about 5:30 in the morning, agents from the Department of Homeland Security visited the apartment of some UCSB students. They interrogated a graduate student -- the target of the pre-dawn raid -- and compelled her to produce documents proving her legal immigration status. The federal agents also asked if anyone else in the apartment was an immigrant. Presumably frightened at the early morning intrusion and eager to comply with the agents' requests, the graduate student's roommate volunteered that she, too, was not born in the United States. Probably confident that she was doing the right thing, the roommate -- who is an undergraduate student at UCSB -- looked for her documentation but was apparently unable to find enough proof to satisfy the agents. She was arrested on the spot. She's currently in a detention facility in Ventura.
I have just been informed that the detained woman is a student in the class I am teaching this quarter. I am horrified. This student has visited me in office hours. She's almost always at lecture, and she has been a frequent contributor to the class discussion. I cannot believe that this is the reason that she's missed lecture the past few days.
Ironically, this week the class will talk about immigration policy in the United States, but I've been notified by the Associate Dean that this student is likely to miss class since she's in an immigration detention facility. I'm told that university counsel is working with the student's family and their legal representative and they hope to secure a quick release for the student.
I wonder how often this kind of thing happens. I obviously don't know all the facts, but from what I do know, the interrogation of these students seems utterly ridiculous. Any questions as to the status of the graduate student targeted for suspicion surely could have been answered in less intrusive ways than an unannounced, pre-dawn interrogation at her apartment. And what made the Department of Homeland Security think that these students, who study sociology and religion, would be some kind of threat deserving of this kind of rough treatment in the first place? Why did they decide that my student, who apparently couldn't find her documents on the spot in the early morning hours, needed to be arrested right then and there? Why not just come back later to check on her, or require that she report to an immigration office within 48 hours or something like that? The immediate arrest and detention appears to me to be totally unwarranted.
I've been an "immigrant" myself when I lived in Japan, and I'm not sure that if agents came storming into my room in the early morning that I'd be able to produce my passport and all my documents fast enough to satisfy them. Thankfully, I was an immigrant in a country that didn't conduct any raids on me. Unfortunately, these students do live in a country where we raid people's homes, asking them to prove that they're legal.
I'm not just horrified by this incident, but I'm also embarrassed. I'm embarrassed as an American that we've sunk to this level in our quest for "securing the borders." How sad.