More than 350 students, faculty, and others gathered at the steps of Nassau Hall Nov. 17 to demand that the University become a “sanctuary campus” for its undocumented students when Donald Trump takes office as president.
Under a dimming sky, the crowd chanted “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” “Education, not deportation,” and “No human being is illegal.” Demonstrators held signs brandishing those similar slogans as students shared their experiences as undocumented immigrants.
The demonstration was organized by the Princeton DREAM Team, a student-run and community-based immigrant rights advocacy group, in collaboration with 10 other student groups and activists on more than 70 campuses across the nation.
“We want the message to be that in light of grave consequences from a Trump presidency, that they will stand against them,” said Carlos Sotelo ’18, a DREAM Team member. He described how the University, in revising its informal motto to read “in the service of humanity,” should “make sure that they are protecting the students not just out of questions of legality, but out of how safe and welcome they feel here at Princeton.”
The DREAM Team also has circulated a petition with a list of demands, calling on the Princeton administration to, among other things, proclaim the University as a sanctuary campus and proclaim the University Chapel as a sanctuary church.
In the past week, students at other colleges in the Ivy League, including Harvard, Yale, and Brown, have signed similar petitions asking their universities to protect undocumented students.
Under the lights of Nassau Hall, Sotelo spoke of his experiences growing up as an undocumented immigrant. The day he got into Princeton, he said, he cried. They were tears of validation: The years of hard work in the face of discrimination had paid off. He described the 2,500 mornings he spent reciting the pledge of allegiance to the American flag at school, and how jarring it is to now be told that he does not belong.
Another undocumented student urged the administration to stand up for its students. “[Y]ou have students in your classrooms whose very pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness are being threatened by the most powerful political position in the world,” she said. “Do not remain complacent. This is not the time for complacency. Princeton is the No. 1 institution in the country. Let us show the world that such a label transcends academic character.”
The crowd marched through campus, taking a route from Nassau Hall past the art museum and through the main floor of the Frist Campus Center before circling back to the main steps of the University Chapel.
“In these troubling times, it’s easy to feel alone and isolated,” he said. “To see so many people here tonight was incredible.”
Sophia Nuñez, a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Language and Cultures, said what brought her to the demonstration was a desire to fight back against what she saw as “this hate of the other, crawling out of its nasty corners.”
“I’m here because I’m glad more people are opening their eyes to it and ready to change things and say that this isn’t what we stand for,” Nuñez said.
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The demonstration was a beginning, Sixto said, but there needs to be a campus-wide movement to engage, to educate, and to show everyone “what it means to be undocumented and unafraid.”