Hundreds of people of all races, religions and nationalities gathered outside of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters in Newark, New Jersey this morning in support of Carimer Andujar, an undocumented Rutgers student who is being threatened with deportation.
Andujar, who has been living in the United States since the age of 4, is a School of Engineering junior and the president of UndocuRutgers — a community and advocacy group for the hundreds of undocumented students at the University.
Andujar was scheduled to meet with an ICE agent this morning after her protection under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) expired on April 12.
Following her meeting, Andujar exited the building and was immediately swarmed by her patiently waiting supporters.
“I do intend to stay here, I do intend to finish my education and I do intend to chase my dreams,” she said to the crowd. “America is the only home that I have known. Like a lot of undocumented students, this is the only place that I call home.”
Andujar said that in the ICE office she was asked a few questions and had her fingerprints taken.
The ICE authorities were well aware of the mass support waiting for her outside, she said.
Andujar said that despite her situation, she will continue to fight for undocumented people.
“It does not matter how many interviews ICE asks me to do. My dedication to undocumented students and ensuring that they have the opportunity that they deserve remains,” she said. “That has not changed. That will never change.”
Andujar expressed relief after leaving the building, saying to the crowd that she is happy.
“I am happy that I get to go home to my mom, to my home, I’m happy I get to continue my studies, I’m happy that I get to continue advocating for the rights of undocumented people everywhere,” she said. “I’m happy this is my home.”
Andujar considers herself an American contrary to what some may believe, she said.
“Being an American is not just having a piece of paper. I consider myself American by any means, and if my home becomes threatened I will fight back because I am here to stay,” she said.
Sherry Wolf, the senior organizer of Rutgers' American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), was a leader of the today’s rally.
Wolf said that a lot can be accomplished with gatherings like this and that the fight does not end with Carimer.
In some ways, though, mass support for one individual out of many can be “tragic,” she said.
“Most people don’t have the Union support and the student organizational support, so at least we’re in a place at Rutgers to summon this kind of solidarity,” she said. “This is tremendous, but (protecting undocumented people) shouldn’t take this.”
The Union works very closely with members of the community to continue to put up as robust a fight as possible against injustices like this, Wolf said.
“I do believe that we have a responsibility as the State University of New Jersey to stand with the people in New Jersey who after all are the students and the faculty and the staff of Rutgers, I mean that’s who we are,” she said. “There’s going to be times when the cameras are away and the microphones are gone, and the student or individual being targeted is not going to be a lovely 21-year-old engineering student, but somebody who is just, you know, a working class person … that is more commonly the situation."
Newark Councilman at Large Louis A. Quintana attended the rally and spoke to the crowd.
Quintana told The Daily Targum that the subject of today’s rally is a humanitarian issue.
“Today they are doing it to Carimer, tomorrow they will continue to do it to other students around the country,” he said. “Institutions of higher education should stand up and say no, we’re not going to allow this.”
Quintana quoted former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill and said that all politics is local.
“This is a local issue that is affecting us now. It is affecting us locally and it is going to affect us nationally if we don’t stand together,” he said. “We have to continue. We have to, every day, come out.”
As a community, we have to help Andujar, Quintana said. The people of New Jersey must urge members of congress to stand up against injustices like this.
Quintana said that this is not a partisan issue, but an issue that involves all Americans no matter their political affiliation.
“We want to make sure that there is a way that folks are protected, that students are protected from ICE,” he said. “Why are we going to deport somebody because somebody woke up in Washington one morning and said, ‘Well let’s get rid of all these people, they’re useless.’”
Stephen Weiss is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in philosophy. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum.