In a press release yesterday, the University announced that it would be joining the court challenge to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration through an amicus curiae brief.
The friend-of-the-court brief, filed jointly with 16 other universities, supports the civil action being pursued by the attorney general of New York, among others, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, according to the press release. The brief challenges President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending “most immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days, suspending refugee admission to the United States for 120 days and suspending the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely,” according to the press release. An appeals federal court has stayed implementation of the order until the resolution of another case challenging it.
University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 jointly initiated a letter cited in the amicus brief, which "they and 46 other college and university presidents and chancellors sent to President Trump last week asking him to rectify or rescind the executive order,” according to the press release.
“I think it’s particularly powerful to see universities work together, so to see Penn’s president and Eisgruber write that letter together, to see higher learning institutions condemning the action because it hurts our faculty and students,” said Diego Negrón-Reichard ’18. “It makes students feel more supported.”
Negrón-Reichard is the outreach chair of Princeton Advocates for Justice. The group is planning an Immigration Day of Action on Feb. 17, which hopes to facilitate students and other University community members calling their respective representatives to show opposition to Trump’s immigration executive actions.
The universities’ amicus brief makes particular note of the universities’ global missions and the benefits they receive from including members of the international community on their campuses.
According to the press release, the brief states, “The contributions of these individuals redound to the benefit not only of the other members of amici’s campus communities, but also to the United States, and the world, more generally.”
“From my perspective, I definitely think it’s a good first step,” Negrón-Reichard said. “I’d say that it’s definitely good seeing the university taking a legal route, especially since Eisgruber has been criticized for not making it a sanctuary campus.”
Co-president of Princeton Latinos y Amigos Samuel Santiago ’19 also thinks that the amicus brief is a positive University action.
“I definitely feel like this is a good step,” he said. “It shows that the University is committed to its students who come to Princeton who make it a more vibrant and diverse community.”
Negrón-Reichard said that he thinks the filing of the amicus brief is a step further than Eisgruber’s original letter to the community, which stated that the University would protect students to the best of its legal abilities but would not make the University a sanctuary campus. Additionally, following the issuing of the temporary immigration ban — popularly dubbed a “Muslim ban” — Eisgruber issued a statement detailing the support the University offers to undocumented students and other members of the international immigration. In particular, he made note that the University supports “legislative efforts to assist non-citizens, including the BRIDGE Act that would extend protection for students covered by DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy).”
Santiago said that he thinks this is a positive step, but that more can be done.
“I know the University doesn’t want to call it a ‘sanctuary campus,’ but there’s symbolism behind words and that’s another step the university could take to make sure undocumented students feel more welcome,” Santiago said. He added that he thinks that the effect of the executive action on intersectional identities should remain an important consideration.
“We have to think about women and how they’ll be affected by this and we also have Muslim brothers and sisters who are being especially affected by these executive actions that are banning travel,” he said. Santiago said that he thinks that this action is important, but that there should also be changes within the University, though these changes take a long time due to bureaucracy.
“I can totally see how this action should come first, but I do want to see it be combined the actions at the university level ... I know they’ll take more time, but it’s something we should start working on now so that we can have new policies to better support undocumented students on campus,” Santiago said.
Muslim Advocates for Social Justice and Individual Dignity president Ramzie Fathy ’20 agrees that the brief is a positive step for the University. He said that when student groups reach out to the University, the most common University response takes the form of a statement.
“This is the first time in a while they’ve gone above and beyond for that,” Fathy said. “I think it’s definitely really important. I think this is probably one of the stronger actions we could take.”
Negrón-Reichard thinks that although the brief is a step in the right direction, the University could do more, particularly to help individuals outside of the community who are seeking immigration help. He said that PAJ has received anonymous requests for help and that he would like to be able to direct these individuals to University resources like the Davis International Center.
Fathy said that he thinks that the amicus brief is powerful, not just because of the number of institutions.
“[Eisgruber is] a constitutional lawyer, so I think it’s good that he’s spearheading this,” Fathy said.
Santiago said there will always be room for improvement, however. He noted financial aid for undocumented students could be improved.
Fathy emphasized the continued need for student involvement, including on the upcoming Immigration Day of Action on Feb. 17.
“The biggest emphasis is that this doesn’t mean that we’re in the clear, this is just another avenue and students should still get involved. It’s not over yet,” Fathy said.