Claremont Police arrested 17 protesters Friday morning after Pomona College dining hall workers, students, professors, and members of the Claremont community conducted a demonstration and sit-in to protest the college’s decision to terminate 17 workers who were unable to provide updated verification of their legal citizenship.
The firings signal the end of a verification process that began on November 7th, when the college notified 84 employees that they must provide updated citizenship documentation by December 1st, or they would be let go. The Student Life reports that the letter was sent after the Pomona College Board of Trustees had received a complaint that some campus employees were undocumented, and that the investigation was part of a “series of legal obligations.”
“The College and some of its employees have been placed in a difficult and unfortunate situation, which we wish could have been avoided,” Paul Efron, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees wrote in an email to the Pomona community. “However, while many of us believe that the country’s immigration policies are in need of reform, it is important to emphasize to the Pomona community that the College has a responsibility to comply with the current laws.”
After 17 employees failed to resolve the discrepancies in their files, the college terminated them effective today. Instead, the employees came to work chanting “we’re here, and we’re not leaving,” according to the Huffington Post.
The employees were joined by an estimated 150 protesters in Frary dining hall this morning, which has been the target of a boycott since Wednesday. In a school-wide email to Pomona students, Miriam Feldblum, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, announced that protestesters were permitted to take-over the dining hall. “The organizers stated that their intention was to have 17 of their number arrested by Claremont Police, but College officials declined to have them arrested so long as they were peaceful,” Feldblum writes. “The protestors then moved to Alexander Hall, where they resumed their protest, continuing their stated intention of being arrested. Around 11:30 this morning, as a result of a negotiation between the protestors and the police, CPD arrested 17 protestors for blocking College Avenue.”
Pomona dining hall workers have been attempting to unionize for over two years, although the L.A. Times reports that talks with Pomona’s administration have stalled. Cynthia Peters, media relations director for the college, told the Huffington Post, “The terminations had nothing to do with the union organizing. The two issues are completely separate.”
The events surrounding this issue are still on-going and this article will be updated as more information becomes available.