Latino residents come to Roaring Fork school board meeting to protest Border Patrol at career expo |

Latino residents come to Roaring Fork school board meeting to protest Border Patrol at career expo

Taylor Cramer
Post Independent
Roaring Fork residents expressed their concerns to the Roaring Fork school board following U.S. Border Patrol's presence at a recent career expo in March
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

The Roaring Fork school board got an earful about the Border Patrol’s presence at a district-wide career expo last month.

Following a 2016 Safe Haven Resolution passed by the school board after a number of incidents in previous years, local Latino activist organization Voces Unidas made its presence felt Wednesday night as a group of residents addressed the board and Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez. 

The Border Patrol’s booth at the expo served as a setback for the Latino community, Voces Unidas President and CEO Alex Sánchez said, referencing the document that highlights such values as to “create a safe and caring environment” and “foster a culture of trust and respect among all stakeholders.”

“It was a violation of our trust with a school system that already has an ugly history with our community,” he said in a follow-up interview Thursday.

Referencing a 2011 incident within the Roaring Fork Valley when school resource officers were also working part time with federal immigration agencies, he said he knows first-hand the effect that this latest incident had on Latino families.

“My own mother was part of a raid, so I’m familiar with how it can tear a family apart,” he said. “As a community, we are forced to live in fear of leaving for work and not knowing if you’re gonna come back and see your kids again.”

Parents and students stepped up to the podium Wednesday night to express their concerns about Border Patrol’s presence at the March 21 career expo. 

“This event was meant to be an opportunity for students to find jobs and career paths,” Christopher Menjivar Cornejo, a junior at Glenwood Springs High School, said. “Inviting Border Patrol felt targeted towards the community and felt targeted in trying to make us feel unsafe.”

The incident prompted apologies from Glenwood Springs High School Principal Paul Freeman and principals of the other high schools, Rodríguez and members of the board, as well as the organizers, Carbondale-based nonprofit Youthentity. The incident has raised cause for concern about how the district will go about preventing occurrences like this from happening in the future.

Some had more nuanced views about this.

“When I first heard about the apology, my initial reaction was frustration and disbelief that we would turn away an employer of good jobs and folks who serve their country and save lives,” Carbondale resident Joe Kaylen said. “Listening to the testimony tonight and talking to neighbors and friends, I realize there are very good reasons why many students would not feel safe around Border Patrol agents. I am advocating that our leaders be leaders. Work on solutions, so that we can focus on educating our students. Those vulnerable, as well as those interested in law enforcement.”

Roaring Fork’s first year working with Youthentity after working with the founding organization, GlenX, for a number of years, district Public Information Officer Kelsy Been said they will have to pay closer attention to who their third-party organizer invites to future fairs. 

“This is the first year where school leaders, counselors, and I believe even students weren’t involved in reviewing the organizations that had signed up for the event,” she said. “We have talked with Youthentity, and we will certainly be involved in that process going forward.”

Following the incident, Sánchez was very clear about what he and the Latino community he represents want to see.

“Now that we’ve seen a violation of the public’s trust, we want to see that resolution put into policy,” he said. “We want to see the board and the school district take those principles that were established in that resolution and find ways to create that to embed that into policy. The resolution is great, but oftentimes, it does not carry the same weight, obviously of enforcement as a policy or regulation.”