To Christopher Eisgruber, President of Princeton University:
Since the November 2016 U.S. elections, you have written several public statements and letters regarding immigration. On Nov. 28, 2016, recognizing possible threats to DACA under the future U.S. president, you wrote that campus authorities would “not disclose private information [such as citizenship status] about our students, faculty, or staff to law enforcement officers unless we are presented with a subpoena or comparably binding requirement.” On Jan. 29, 2017, in response to the executive order to ban refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and from seven nations with Muslim majorities for 90 days, you reiterated: “We do not disclose private information about our students, faculty, or staff to law enforcement officers unless we are presented with a valid subpoena or comparably binding requirement.” I doubt that these statements provide protection or reassurance to people in especially vulnerable situations, as they basically admit that you are willing to cooperate with agencies that have a track record of dramatically endangering people’s futures.
I agree with the letters that were published in The Daily Princetonian by Jessica Sarriot and Dan-el Padilla Peralta last year that rightly demanded a greater commitment from you and from Princeton. I hope that you, as a constitutional scholar, remember that you are placing confidence in the same constitutional framework that today legalizes slavery or involuntary servitude of people as punishment for a crime and that has led the United States to currently have the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world. These laws have been designed to protect you and me, as white people. I ask you to think of people before you think of laws. As an alumnus of Princeton (’08), I question the motto “in the nation’s service,” coined by Woodrow Wilson, whose words also were hailed in “The Birth of a Nation,” and your repeated appeals to nationalism, routinely supporting immigration through the lens of productivity and the contributions immigrants bring to the United States as echoed in your recent letters to politicians on Aug. 30 and Sept. 5.
In addition to encouraging you to think of people as humans and not of people as producers, I ask, “whose country?” The borders you preserve when you uphold the United States as a nation are the same borders that make it difficult for people to pursue new lives, to escape trauma, to reconnect with their loved ones, and the same borders that support settler colonialism, which is the foundation of the United States. Let’s imagine and create a world without borders. Many of us are in the United States as settlers: you, me, and people in perhaps very different situations who are caught up in the “colonial projects,” as Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang write in “Decolonization is not a metaphor,” that include “coerced immigration from nations torn by U.S. wars or devastated by U.S. economic policy.” Recognizing the enormous privileges that you and I have as white settlers, I urge you to act “in the people’s service” and not “in the nation’s service.”
Bryan Cockrell ’08