One of the most prominent undocumented students at Rutgers University in New Jersey is facing possible deportation this week. Carimer Andujar, the president of UndocuRutgers, has been summoned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for an interview on Tuesday. Andujar, 21, came to the United States from the Dominican Republic with her family at the age of four. She is also a recipient of DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—under President Obama.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to 21-year-old Carimer Andujar, who came to the United States from the Dominican Republic with her family at the age of four. She’s in her third years studying chemical engineering at Rutgers University, where she’s been an outspoken advocate for undocumented students. Andujar is the president of UndocuRutgers and a recipient of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, under President Obama. She was waiting for renewal of her status when she received a letter from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, ordering her to report for a check-in on Tuesday morning. Immigrant rights advocates say Andujar may now face deportation.
Carimer Andujar, welcome to Democracy Now!
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Thank you.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Tell us about your situation, when you received this notice to report.
CARIMER ANDUJAR: So, I received the notice about seven to eight weeks ago. And the notice said that I had to report for an interview with the deportation officer at the federal ICE building in Newark.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you’ve been very active in the—at Rutgers University among the undocumented students. Talk about your work there.
CARIMER ANDUJAR: So, my advocacy first started by starting Rutgers’ first student organization for undocumented students. I started the organization with the objective of providing resources, as well as support, to undocumented students, to improve the graduation rates and as well as retention rates for undocumented students, because they’re currently very low for higher education.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is your fear of deportation? Have you seen other students, either at Rutgers or students that you know, who have—were initially granted DACA, who then have subsequently been deported?
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Yes. There was a national case a couple of weeks ago of a DACA recipient who was actually either out to lunch or out to dinner with his girlfriend, and then ICE officials started to ask him questions. That very same day, he was later deported to Mexico. So that’s a direct violation of the regulation set forth by DACA, because DACA is supposed to be deportation protection for early childhood arrivals.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And tell us a little bit about your story. You came from the Dominican Republic when you were 4 years old. And you lived and studied where? In New Jersey all of your life?
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Yes.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And tell us a little bit about what it’s been like being here undocumented for so many years.
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Well, first and foremost, I consider America my home, without a doubt. I’ve been living in the same house for 15 to 16 years. So, undoubtedly, I do consider this my home. Growing up undocumented was challenging because there is a lot of fear, and there’s also a lot of uncertainty. And it also poses a lot of challenges trying to obtain a higher education degree. So, some of those challenges include not being able to get federal financial aid or any form of financial aid, as well as it does pose—it does make it more difficult to also apply for like loans. So, financially, it’s a lot of strain.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, during a February news conference, President Trump was asked if he planned to continue or end the DACA program. This was his response.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have, because you have these incredible kids—in many cases, not in all cases. In some of the cases, they’re having DACA, and they’re gang members, and they’re drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids—I would say mostly. They were brought here in such a way—it’s a very—it’s a very, very tough subject. We are going to deal with DACA with heart. I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don’t forget, and I have to convince them that what I’m saying is—is right. And I appreciate your understanding on that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Your reaction to President Trump’s statements and also to his general approach so far to the immigration issue in the country?
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Well, the statement comes after a lot of dehumanizing rhetoric, mainly targeting not only immigrants, in general, but also specifically undocumented immigrants. So it came as a bit of surprise, just because perhaps he didn’t realize, when he was first speaking, that when he speaks about undocumented people, he’s also speaking about DACA recipients, because it’s not only a DACA recipient versus non-DACA recipient, because, you know, non-DACA recipients are our parents. They’re also—you know, they’re in the same struggle as us. We’re—our struggle is one and the same.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, at Rutgers, the university officials have declared the university a safe space for undocumented students. There’s sort of an equivalent to sanctuary cities that have developed around the country. Your response to how the university has dealt with your case? And the—I know the faculty union has been very supportive and is mobilizing people to appear with you Tuesday morning at the federal—at the federal building there.
CARIMER ANDUJAR: So, I have received incredible support, as you said, from the faculty union, as well as various professors at the university. I have heard that some students have been reaching out to Barchi, which is the president of the university, for—to get him to voice his support for not only myself, but also other undocumented students in my situation. I have not heard—I have not heard feedback from that, but I do know that the Senate approved a motion in support of undocumented students. So, as of right now, what we have seen from the administration is a lot of emails by support—sorry, support from emails. So we’ve received a lot of emails stating their support for undocumented students. But, you know, this is a case where now is the time for them to prove and demonstrate their support, not only in emails, but, you know, when an actual case arises, are they willing to kind of go against the national rhetoric and support an undocumented student?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So you’ll be going to your ICE check-in Tuesday morning, tomorrow morning, at 8:30 in Newark, New Jersey. You’ll be accompanied by who? And what do you expect to happen?
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Well, my interview is at 9:00, but I do expect to get there early, so around 8:30. So, because of the support that I have been receiving, as I said, not only from my university, but also communities and local officials, I don’t think that they are going to deport or detain me, because several senators as well as congresspeople have been in contact with ICE, letting them know that there is—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: U.S. Senator Cory Booker has—
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Yes.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —is supporting you?
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Yes, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, as well as Senator Bob Menendez. They have also—I have also been in contact with them, and they have been supporting me, as well as Congressman Pallone and Congressman Pascrell. So, because of the support that I have received, the tremendous amount of support that I have received, I don’t think that they will be deporting or detaining me.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, best of luck to you in your hearing, and we’ll continue to follow the work of the UndocuRutgers students, as well as the DACA students across the nation, in their fight to assure that they are able to stay in the country legally.
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Thank you.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Thanks very much for being with us, Carimer Andujar.
CARIMER ANDUJAR: Thank you.