February 1, 2017

Princeton Responds to Immigration Orders

With chaos at airports, in the courts and elsewhere throughout the country amidst controversy over President Donald Trump’s recent immigration restriction orders, Princeton is making plans to protect vulnerable members of the community.

“Recent executive actions on immigration issues are cruel, counterproductive, and contrary to the values we hold dear in Princeton,” Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert and the Town Council wrote in a statement issued Monday night. 

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber and Institute for Advanced Study Director Robbert Dijkgraaf have also issued statements expressing their concern regarding the federal executive order which last Friday established travel restrictions for refugees and those coming to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries designated by federal authorities as “sources of terror.”

The town, community organizations, including Human Services and the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF), the University and the Institute all indicated their strong opposition to the order and their commitment to support community members, students, and scholars who might be affected by President Trump’s action.

Emphasizing the supportive response from the community, the statement from mayor and Council described “the overwhelming outpouring of compassion from our fellow Princeton residents,” and reaffirmed that “we are a welcoming community that recognizes and celebrates the diversity that makes our town such a special place.”

The statement invited citizens to get involved in helping to “make Princeton a safe community for all who live, work, and study here.” And, the mayor and Council continued, “Everyone С from schoolchildren to seniors С has a role to play in ensuring Princeton remains a welcoming place for all. Now more than ever, simple acts of everyday kindness can help to bind our community closer together at a time when outside forces threaten to divide us.”

In his statement to the University community issued Sunday, Mr. Eisgruber emphasized that Princeton University has always “depended on America’s ability to attract and engage with talented people from around the world. Princeton today benefits tremendously from the presence of extraordinary individuals of diverse nationalities and faiths, and we will support them vigorously.”

Dean of the University Faculty Deborah Prentice and Graduate School Dean Sanjeev Kulkarni have also issued messages providing preliminary information about the order and its consequences. “The legal implications of the executive order have been evolving rapidly,” Mr. Eisgruber added. “My colleagues in the University administration will continue to monitor developments and identify appropriate ways to assist affected individuals. We will update the community as needed to ensure that our students, faculty, and staff know how to obtain information or help.”

In addition, on a personal note, he pointed out, “Princeton’s position on immigration policy issues reflects our conviction that every single person on this campus has benefited from the ability of people to cross borders in search of learning or a better life. That is emphatically true for me. My mother and her family arrived in this country as refugees escaping from a war-torn continent. They would have perished had they been denied visas. My father first came to this country as an exchange student from a country that had recently been at war with the United States, and he then studied at Purdue University as a foreign graduate student.”

Mr. Dijkgraaf, in his statement on Monday to Institute members, similarly affirmed the organization’s values and commitment to uphold those values in support of its scholars. “From our founding, the Institute has welcomed academics from around the world, irrespective of race, gender, and creed, with the simple requirement that they be dedicated to advancing scholarship,” he said. “Bringing leading scholars from all the world’s countries and regions and supporting their unfettered academic research, wherever it may take them, are among our core values. This was true in the 1930s when faculty like Einstein, Weyl, and von Neumann came from Europe to the Institute, and it is true today as we welcome faculty and members from more than 30 countries.”

The Institute director further warned against the “potential of the new federal order to interfere with our scholars’ ability to pursue their academic work,” and emphasized the IAS commitment to provide support, guidance, and information where needed. “True to its mission and history,” he added, “the Institute will always be a strong advocate for the unobstructed flow of scholars across the world. In the meantime, we are committed to doing everything we can within the limits of the law to protect and support those who are affected by this executive order.”

Leticia Fraga, chair of the Board of Trustees of LALDEF, member of the town’s Civil Rights Commission, and recently declared candidate for Princeton Council, has observed a dramatic response to President’s Trump’s immigration order from local citizens. “I have already had many individuals and families reach out to me. They’re scared and anxious about how they will be affected by the new executive orders. They’re very vulnerable. “

Commenting on the compassion and support of the community, Ms. Fraga pointed out that “Many have come together to make a rapid-response emergency plan for residents to do what they can to assist families and ensure that children will be OK. I have children in school whose classmates will be affected. It comes close to home, but many are reaching out to help so that individuals don’t feel alone.”

Ms. Fraga added, “This is a topic I feel very passionate about. I realize what these parents must be going through. We’re helping these families put together their parenting plans, in case a parent is detained or has to leave the country. We can take action, come together and help the most vulnerable of our neighbors to ensure that they know they’re not alone.”

Explaining that the difference between staying and deportation often depends on whether they have the resources to hire an attorney, Ms. Fraga added, “We’re in the planning stages of putting together a fund to help individuals deal with legal costs.”

LALDEF executive director Adriana Abizadeh explained that “In light of recent executive orders, LALDEF is working diligently with community partners to ensure that our clients have access to all of the services that they need. We are working to educate our clients on their rights and provide them with all of the support they need to combat the fear that has risen since the results of the election in November.”

Ms. Abizadeh observed that “Princeton has wonderful city government leadership that is proactive in helping all members of their community. After the election Princeton Human Services worked effectively to create a Know Your Rights workshop for the community and there will be more to come. Princeton stands for equality and they are not interested in pursuing residents based on their legal status. They will not allow themselves to be deputized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is very important for the immigrant residents of Princeton.”

The Council and mayor have urged residents who have concerns, needs, or the desire to get involved and help to contact the Princeton Human Services Department at 1 Monument Drive, (609) 688-2055.