SDSU police chief holds forum on concerns about immigration enforcement


SDSUPD Chief Josh Mays discusses immigration enforcement issues with students in a forum Oct. 4.

by Lauren J. Mapp, Staff Writer

San Diego State Police Department Chief Josh Mays addressed student concerns about Border Patrol agents being on campus in a forum organized by SDSU Education Without Borders Oct. 4.

During the forum, which was held in Storm Hall, Mays said he wanted to provide context about the police department’s role on campus as it relates to immigration, and build trust with students in their interactions with police.

If undocumented students are approached by federal agents or those claiming to be agents while on campus, Mays said they should contact SDSUPD to be connected with general legal counsel on campus for help and advice.

“For our (SDSUPD) purposes, someone’s status with respect to immigration is 100 percent irrelevant,” Mays said. “It would be very hard to find a scenario where an officer would need to know someone’s citizenship to provide fair, transparent and respectful policing both while honoring the past, present and future needs of whoever we’re dealing with because it’s 100 percent irrelevant to state and local law.”

Mays also said San Diego Border Patrol Chief Richard A. Barlow has an agreement to notify SDSUPD of any policy changes that may affect undocumented students at SDSU, or of any need for Border Patrol agents to come onto campus.

College campuses are considered safe zones for DACA students, and as such, students should not be approached by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection agents without a judicial warrant while on campus, including in dorms and student housing, Mays said.

Mays cited a document recently released by the California State University that states campus police “will not contact, detain, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis of suspected undocumented immigration status.”

The only instance in which university police would notify Border Patrol about an undocumented student would be if the student was arrested for some sort of violation and had a warrant for a violent crime, Mays said.

Stephanie Estrada, SDSU Education Without Borders secretary, said that building a working relationship with Mays will help ease tensions on campus during what she described as a “difficult time.”

“It is a sensitive time for everyone, and when we see someone (from ICE or CBP) on campus, it’s scary,” Estrada said. “Just having a talk with (Mays), it helps me as a person. We have to break the barrier between SDSU police and how the students feel scared.”

Due to unconfirmed reports of border patrol officers being seen on campus earlier in the semester, Education Without Borders members thought it was important to have Mays clear up the rumors, organization president Carlos Rodriguez said.

“We wanted to address a lot of the questions, like what can students do to voice their concern, or inform faculty or the police department, and what is the jurisdiction that border patrol has on campus,” Rodriguez said.

Mays said there have been no confirmed reports of CBP or ICE agents on campus, other than for career fairs and other on-campus events.

SDSU Undocumented Resource Area Coordinator Cynthia Torres said she hopes this event will help students feel more comfortable on campus and in interactions with SDSUPD.

“Having good communication with the SDSUPD helps clarify and demystify some of the issues around border patrol, establishing trust,” Torres said.

Randi McKenzie, a retired assistant dean for the College of Professional Studies and Fine Art who volunteers with the campus police department, said she thinks DACA students having conversations with SDSUPD officers will help to build mutual trust.

“They’re wanting very much to find ways of collaborating,” McKenzie said. “I do think if you can get to know them a little as humans, then you might trust them a little bit more. They really would like to work with people (on campus).”

Associated Students Vice President of University Affairs Christopher Thomas said he attended the event to show that he and the rest of A.S. are supportive of all students on campus.

He said any students who might not feel comfortable calling campus police can reach out to A.S. for assistance.

“A.S. this year is truly wanting to be there for everyone, to support people and creating a warm community and creating a united campus for everyone to be safe,” Thomas said. “One of my sincere goals is making sure that all students are heard and that students know what A.S. is.”

Thomas said one of the A.S. University Affairs projects this year is “Your Voice Matters,” an initiative that aims to advocate for needs of students on campus.

After a recent vote from the A.S. Financial Affairs Committee, A.S. President Chimezie Ebiriekwe announced SDSU’s Economic Crisis Response Team would be providing prepaid credit cards to those who needed to reapply for DACA to cover their costs.