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17 Students, Community Members Arrested at Pomona College Protest

December 5, 2011

POMONA – Unprovoked by any federal agency, Pomona College fired today 16 dining hall workers who did not re-verify their eligibility to work. Several of those terminated had worked at Pomona College for 10 to 20 years.

In protest, about 200 students, workers, alumni and community members descended on Frary Dining Hall, demanding the right to come work. When managers refused to let workers work, supporters took the dispute outside the Pomona College President David Oxtoby’s office and picketed in the street.

"We're here to work," said Christian Torres, a seven-year Pomona College cook. "What Pomona College has done is wrong and unjust, and we will keep fighting to come back to work."

The administration's demand for documentation and subsequent firing of immigrant workers comes as the workers continue efforts to organize a union on a campus.

The demand for documentation was not brought on by a federal agency. Instead, Pomona launched the internal audit itself. Pomona administrators said they properly verify documents at the time of hiring, but claimed some workers had "discrepancies" and wanted documents again.

The unprovoked scrutiny is an about face for the liberal college. College President David Oxtoby used his 2010 commencement speech to endorse the DREAM Act, noting, "this country benefits from the ideas, the skills, and the hard work of those who do or do not bear proper documents; we need to recognize that fact and move toward comprehensive immigration reform."

Dozens of students and alumni also joined the protest to condemn Pomona College's actions. "I put all my other responsibility aside this morning to be at the protest today because I'm so enraged by what my alma mater has done to its workers," said Scott Ratigan, Pomona College '90. "This is low."

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