Students and faculty joined Baltimore community members in protesting the University’s contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) by walking out of class at 11 a.m. on Feb. 6. The event was organized by the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE, which includes a number of campus activist organizations such as Students Against Private Police (SAPP), #JHToo, Teachers and Researchers United (TRU) and Refuel our Future.
Organizers reported that around 250 participants marched from the Milton S. Eisenhower Library and then through Gilman, chanting slogans such as, “JHU hear us shout / We won’t stop until ICE is out” and “JHU shame on you.”
TRU member Sam Agarwal, a Sociology graduate student who helped organized the walkout, felt that it was a success. She noted that the turnout was higher than any of the Coalition’s past actions against the JHU-ICE contracts.
“People have seen Hopkins’ apathy towards the campaign. They’ve seen the way that they’ve responded, which included a kind of cynical defense of the contract including using academic freedom as an excuse,” she said. “People see that and know immediately that it’s bullshit. They know that’s Hopkins attempting to provide cover for an agency that has been widely recognized as carrying out a xenophobic and racist agenda towards immigrants.”
According to government spending data, the University has had 37 contracts with ICE since 2009. Currently the University has three active contracts with the agency, one of which is set to expire Feb. 16 while the other two will expire this September.
Agarwal also emphasized that the walkout was meant to escalate the confrontation with the administration, since past actions have only included rallies, petitions and protests.
“We were disrupting classes and encouraging students to increase their level of participation,” Agarwal said.
This walkout is the third action taken by the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE since Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in English Drew Daniel authored an online petition calling for an end to the contracts.
Daniel addressed the crowd, critiquing the University for emphasizing its commitment to diversity while still holding contracts with ICE.
“I cannot ignore this institution as it wanders ever further into a moral abyss. Now the stakes are high, and they are higher than the PR of a university... We know what ICE is doing is wrong, and if what ICE is doing is wrong, then doing business with ICE is wrong too,” Daniel said. “History will judge ICE, and history will judge ICE’s enablers and profiteers, but we don’t have the luxury of waiting around for the judgements of history. We want justice today.”
The University has previously stated that the contracts are for emergency medical training and leadership training.
Daniel listed various controversies that ICE has been involved in, including the separation of migrant parents and their children at the U.S.-Mexico border. He asserted that if what ICE is doing is wrong, then doing business with them is wrong as well.
“We know that ICE terrorizes black and brown communities. ICE violates the human rights of the people it detains. It separates children from their families. People are being sexually assaulted in ICE detention campus, and children are dying from preventable diseases due to neglect,” Daniel said. “It comes to no comfort to the people who are mourning these indignities, that the people who delivered them to those camps were trained in CPR and life saving skills at one of the finest universities in the country.”
Nicki Stachowiak, a Baltimore community member, is also a member of the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE. She noted that it would look bad for Hopkins to continue working with ICE, which has faced numerous controversies including family separation at the border and the illegal imprisonment of asylum seekers.
“It’s very concerning, that Hopkins, as much as it values its reputation, continues these contracts with ICE, which from its inception is an institution that is made to basically animalize people and treat them as pests,” she said.
Following the march, several member organizations of the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE spoke, including #JHToo, TRU, SAPP, Jews United for Justice, the International Socialist Organization and Refuel Our Future (Refuel).
Freshmen Reshmi Patel and Cas Gustafsson spoke as representatives of #JHToo, an activist organization raising awareness about sexual violence on campus. They detailed cases of sexual violence against migrants perpetrated in detention centers by ICE agents.
“We are calling for an immediate end to these contracts that disregard the assault of countless immigrants,” Patel said.
This is the first year that Refuel Our Future, which is working to get the University to divest from fossil fuels, has participated in a Hopkins Coalition Against ICE rally.
In an interview with The News-Letter, sophomore Sam Mollin, communications manager for Refuel, said that his organization decided to join the coalition because increased migration and climate change are inextricably linked.
“If you look at why migrants are coming to the United States, it’s because of climate change. It’s because the places they live are facing higher and higher levels of drought and more and more natural disasters, and the reason that ICE is even able to get to them is because they are being forced by climate change to cross the border in greater numbers,” Mollin said.
Agarwal, when asked what she thought the University’s response to the walkout would be, stated that she had hoped administrators would at least commit to reviewing their position on the issue.
“The fact that they haven’t shows that Hopkins cares far more about money than they do about their reputation about purported values and about the will of the community,” Agarwal said.