University of Arizona students and members of the Tucson community gathered Friday afternoon at the James E. Rogers College of Law to protest the work of Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.
Chertoff was on campus to speak at the law school for the Rehnquist Center, which is the research center at UA law school. About 75 people were outside the law school to protest the Real ID Act mainly, according to second-year law student Jenny Neeley.
Section 102 of the Real ID Act, passed in 2005, grants Chertoff "unprecedented authority to waive any law that he sees necessary in order to build walls and other infrastructure," Neeley said.
Though the majority of people present were there to protest Chertoff, a few students were on hand to show their support for the secretary. Even so, the protest was "peaceful," with "no incidents at all," Neeley said.
Out to show appreciation of Chertoff, second-year law student Ted Vogt said four other students were there to do the same. Vogt said he was "supportive" of Chertoff's work, that "border enforcement is essential."
The line of protesters began at East Speedway Boulevard and North Mountain Avenue, and stretched to the end of the James E. Rogers College of Law.
Several people there were emotionally tied to what they were protesting. Freelance writer Carrie Gayne said she was out protesting because "I care I care about the people in the desert risking their lives to attain a better life."
"We shouldn't be building walls," Gayne said, "We should be building better relationships with Mexico." She added, "People are going to come here, no matter what. A fence is not going to stop them."
First-year Mexican American studies graduate student Angelica Loreto had similar thoughts. "The border's just right there. If we can't work together as a community with our neighbors, how can we expect to get anything done?" she said.
Neeley referred back to policy, saying the Real ID Act meant "communities on the border have no say at all in the construction," as far as "how and where border infrastructure is built." According to Neeley, the border legislation was "attached to a larger funding law for the war and tsunami relief efforts." She said Congress passed the law because "they all understood that it was for the San Diego project," a project in which litigation had gotten in the way for years.
However, Neeley said, "The language of the waiver is such that it just says any law." Thus, Neeley said, "Secretary Chertoff has abused his power (and) decided to take a whole suite of laws and just brush them aside."
Not concentrating on the policies Chertoff may or may not be using to his advantage, Gayne said she was protesting because, "I don't like Michael Chertoff." She called his work a waste of money and resources, including that "it sets a really bad example" in terms of international relations.
Summing it up, Gayne called the construction along the border between Mexico and the U.S. "a really bad Band-Aid on a huge problem." Gayne appeared upset even talking about it, saying she was "so fed up with Bush and all of his cronies."
Even Chertoff supporter Vogt said "comprehensive" border policy is needed, that current regulations are "archaic and work to trap people in the country."
"Hopefully, the new Congress and administration will take it seriously," said Vogt, referring to border control reform.
President-elect Barack Obama has the choice of keeping Chertoff as secretary of Homeland Security or replacing him with a new candidate, Neeley said. "I think Barack Obama should get rid of him as quickly as possible," he said.