ITHACA, N.Y. — Online rumors that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are at Cornell University has seemingly caused people to be on high alert, but officials have allegedly confirmed that the rumors are not true.
According to the Facebook group the Cornell DREAM Team, which claims to have been in touch with Cornell University Police Department Chief Kathy Zoner, “We have heard from CUPD that there is no agent on campus. We still encourage folks to exercise caution and do what they need to to feel safe.”
Several different sources not authorized to speak about the matter, confirmed with multiple reporters in Ithaca that ICE was not on campus and previous indication that the agency was at Cornell was a mistake.
People in Ithaca are on high alert looking to tell each other about the presence of ICE in the community after Jose Lopez Guzman, 32, was taken into custody by ICE agents while walking down the street last week.
Hundreds of people turned out for a rally in the Ithaca Commons last Wednesday making it clear that they do not support ICE executing operations in Ithaca.
Mayor Svante Myrick said at the rally, “”We can only conclude that ICE is targeting sanctuary cities…This is an attempt to bully us. There’s no question they want us to stop being a sanctuary city.”
Hours after rumors of the incident had been shared hundreds of times on social media, new Cornell President Martha E. Pollack released the following statement:
Dear Cornell Community,
Earlier today, an independent contractor for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) arrived on the Ithaca campus to conduct a routine background check related to an individual’s application for a job with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. When the contractor identified himself at a visitor booth, a false rumor quickly circulated across campus and on social media that the visitor was an officer of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It is understandable, in light of recent, local action by ICE, that this news—while inaccurate—would be met with great concern.
I would like to use this opportunity to remind all members of our campus community that Cornell will continue to vigilantly protect the privacy of student information and records from any unauthorized disclosure in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The university has clear policies in place in this regard, and I have asked Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, to communicate them to all staff in the colleges and schools and within the Division of Student and Campus Life.
I also want to remind you, as previously stated by former president Hunter Rawlings, that while Cornell representatives, including Cornell University Police Department, will comply with lawfully issued subpoenas and warrants, it is neither the university’s practice nor expectation to function as an agent of the federal government regarding enforcement of federal immigration laws. I firmly stand behind that position.
Among the greatest strengths of our campus community is its diversity. As we acknowledge and celebrate that diversity, we will work to continually support and defend the most vulnerable among us.
Martha E. Pollack
Featured image by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Department of Homeland Security), via Wikimedia Commons