Hundreds of University community members, including students, faculty, and staff, held a demonstration to call for the University to become a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, faculty, and staff.The demonstration began in front of the Nassau Hall at 5 p.m. and was spearheaded by the Princeton DREAM Team, a immigrants' rights group. The demonstration was part of a larger national movement this week promoted by the Cosecha Movement, a pro-immigrants' rights organization. According to Cosecha, similar demonstrations labelled #SanctuaryMovement have occurred at around 80 different universities across the nation in the wake of the election of President-elect Donald Trump, whose rhetoric calling for undocumented immigrants to be deported has been heavily criticized. The purpose of these demonstrations have differed by campus, from general demands that the administration protects undocumented students to guarantees that universities will protect undocumented students from deportation.
The event was organized by Arlene Gamio ’18, Alejandra Rincon ’18, Brandon Sixto ’17, and Carlos Sotelo ’17. Sixto led chants such as “say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” “the people, united, shall never be divided,” “ain’t no power like the power of the people, because the power of the people don’t stop.” Protesters held signs and posters displaying messages such as “education not deportation,” “no human being is illegal,” “sanctuary now,” and “protect undocumented people.”
Gamio, Rincon, Sixto, and Sotelo then began reading off a list of demands to administration to make the University a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, faculty, and staff. The demands were to proclaim the University as a sanctuary campus and Princeton Chapel as a refugee church, to begin classifying undocumented students as domestic, to waive the international tax for undocumented students, to hire someone in the Davis International Student Center to serve undocumented students and students with undocumented and mixed status families, to make the Office of Admission website more clear regarding policies toward undocumented students, and to start a dean’s fund with no loans for undocumented students to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status.
DACA is an immigration policy passed by President Obama in June 2012 that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country before age 16 and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and protection from deportation.
Sotelo then began reading a testimony regarding his experience as an undocumented immigrant. He added criticism to the culture that regards undocumented immigrants as criminals and offered praise for the University and its support systems.
“I’m thankful for international financial aid and grateful that the greatest lessons I learned were from a mother who had a 9th grade education in Mexico," Sotelo. "I ask you to take this call to action seriously. I am so glad I know for certain today that I have the support of so many people."
Rincon then read an anonymous testimonial by an undocumented University student.
“I am so much more than the alien number U.S. immigrations has assigned me. This isn’t just about me, about the ones who have compromised immigration status. Undocumented students contribute so much, and borders and oceans were not crossed in vain,” Rincon read.
The anonymous testimonial underscored the DREAM team’s wish for students to get directly involved with the movement.
“Simply showing up at this rally or posting on Facebook or calling yourself an ally will not make a difference. You are not an ally until you speak up against the hateful rhetoric [toward undocumented students] or work with organizations that help undocumented students. Work with the Princeton DREAM team to mentor high school students, stop using the term ‘illegal immigrants,’ get engaged, get involved,” Rincon read.
At 5:25 p.m., after chants of “What do we want? Sanctuary! When do we want it? Now!” Sixto reiterated the need for direct action and directed the protest’s march of support. The protesters marched from Nassau Hall to the Princeton University Art Museum, through Frist Campus Center, and ended at the University chapel. Throughout the march, protesters continued to chant.
The demonstration gathered a diverse group of people, including mothers with small children mixed with elderly couples and University students. Protesters also ranged in motivation, from a general desire to support undocumented community members to a more direct connection to immigration rights.
“I came to the walk-in because I wanted to show my support for anyone being targeted, and I wanted the University to show its support for any immigrants who need sanctuary,” Naomi Cohen-Shields ’20 said.
Uri Schwartz ’20, a Mexican citizen and a permanent resident in the US, expressed fear and worry over last week’s election results.
“I’m worried about the future of our country and for my peers. I’m lucky enough to not have to be scared for myself, but I fear for my undocumented fellow students, who have to live in a country where people think they are criminals," Schwartz said. "I’m here because I want the University to support undocumented students in all ways."
At the University chapel, Sixto thanked protesters for coming out and expressed hope.
“What we’re feeling now is the voice of the people that demonstrated in support of undocumented students, faculty, and staff. We must not forget to love each other and be kind," Sixto said. "This is a good first step, but it’s not enough. We cannot be complacent to the divisive rhetoric [of Trump].”
Sixto urged protesters to sign the DREAM team’s petition to make Princeton a sanctuary campus, which had over 1,500 signatures by Thursday. The petition was cosigned by the Alliance of Jewish Progressives, the Asian American Students Association, the Latino Graduate Student Association, the Muslim Advocates for Social Justice and Individual Dignity, Princeton College Democrats, Princeton Latinos y Amigos, Princeton Progressive Magazine, Princeton University Latinx Perspectives Organization, Queer Graduate Caucus, and Students for Prison Education and Reform.
“If you learn nothing else from this demonstration, know that we are all humans and deserving of love and respect,” Sixto said.