In Response to: Speaking Out on DACA

The following is an expanded version of a letter published in the Nov. 8, 2017, issue.

I was dismayed – but not overly surprised – to read the “official” position taken by President Eisgruber ’83 and 170 faculty members et al. regarding DACA students and the University’s efforts to provide them sanctuary (On the Campus, Oct. 4).

Dismayed because of their open and expressed defiance of federal immigration laws, but not surprised given the generally left-leaning trend of many institutions of higher learning and the mainstream media.  However, the implication is that by not signing on, the majority of Princeton faculty members remain either neutral or opposed to supporting the cause.

Granted, the DACA situation is an enormous political and social dilemma in our country, and the numbers in the aggregate are staggering: estimates of 800,000 “children” as an inclusive subset of an estimated 11-million-plus “undocumented immigrants” currently residing in the United States. But these figures are only estimates; the reality is, because there is no accurate process of accountability, no one really knows the real numbers! And it begs the question: What kind of country cannot effectively control its national borders, both from illegal entry and visa overstays? Clearly it has not been politically expedient to do so – on both sides of the congressional aisle – whether the apparent interests be enhanced voting influence or readily available, cheap labor.

This has been going on now for decades, exacerbated to the point where it is a major societal, moral, and economic problem. The correct (and official) terminology of all such persons is “illegal alien,” intentionally softened to “undocumented immigrant” in many references. It is now the policy of mainstream media sources, however, to lump all such non-citizens with a desire to stay in the country as simply “immigrants,” thereby clouding the distinction between those who are “legal” and “illegal,” and ultimately giving the impression that there is no discernible difference. 

Perhaps I am overly sensitive to the matter because I am married (53 years and counting!) to a legal immigrant whom, coincidentally and with everlasting appreciation, I first met when I was an undergraduate student at Princeton. Margrit, from Germany, went through all the proper “hoops” and procedures to gain legal entry to this country, obtained a “green card,” and ultimately became a naturalized citizen. Thus I resent even the thought of any proposed shortcuts or abuses to altering the process. 

Current immigration laws are workable, and simply need to be fully enforced. Appeals from politicians and advocacy groups for “immigration reform” are simply code for “amnesty” that history has proven does not work, becoming instead just another magnet inviting more “intruders” to make the effort to enter our country illegally.

Nowhere in the article does it state how many DACA students are currently enrolled. Princeton, as a privately operated and funded university, has every right to fill an entire class with foreign students of any status if it so chooses. The real issue arises when the many state, taxpayer-funded higher-ed institutions give preference to DACA "Dreamers" and other illegals (via relaxed admission standards, reduced/waived tuition, etc.) at the expense of U.S. citizens/taxpayers whose qualified children are otherwise denied entry. In my view, this is very poor and misguided public policy.

It appears we, as a nation, will slowly inch our way toward an eventual solution: Full enforcement of current immigration laws, including “E-Verify” monitoring of all employers; full implementation of federal requirements (REAL ID) regarding state-issued driver’s licenses that clearly identify those who are U.S. citizens; and possibly even a revision/replacement of Social Security numbers – the de facto individual ID mechanism that has proven to be not so secure. U.S. citizens may ultimately have to accept the burden of an individual national ID (e.g. “papers”) that has been anathema to many as a “loss of freedom,” yet a necessary price to be paid in an increasingly complex and dangerous world.

With regard to Princeton’s questionable “action,” the final paragraph of the article is by far the most cogent: “Affirming a position previously stated by Eisgruber, the University said immigration lawyers ‘have indicated that the concept of a “sanctuary campus” has no basis in law, and that colleges and universities have no authority to exempt any part of their campuses from the nation’s immigration laws.’”

Bruce Elliot ’62
La Conner, Wash.