By Allie Spensley and Audrey Spensley
February 19, 2017
On Friday, Feb. 17, Princeton Advocates for Justice (PAJ) held an “Immigration Day of Action,” an event for students to voice concerns about President Trump’s executive orders and other national political actions regarding immigration. The event was open to students, faculty, and community members.
PAJ, a new student organization, formed in response to measures and executive actions taken by the new Trump administration. Their mission is to help promote a culture of activism and political engagement that is directed toward encouraging inclusivity toward immigrants and other marginalized groups. The Day of Action, which PAJ has been advertising in Frist Campus Center, was their first event.
Tables set up in the B level of Frist were stocked with templates and advice for calling or writing letters and postcards to U.S. congressmen and senators, as well as state legislators and other representatives of students’ home districts. The event offered letter paper, postcards, and stamps for all who attended.
Organizers also provided event attendees with help registering to vote in New Jersey. One table, sponsored by the Princeton Clay Project and Princeton Students for Gender Equality, had a button-making station with slogans such as “You Are Loved” and “I Support Refugees.” Princeton Citizen Scientists, a similar coalition initiated by graduate students, headed a table at the front of the room.
“The point of the activity was to show people that they can do something and get engaged, whether it be calling or writing or making postcards,” Diego Negron-Reichard ’18, a member of Princeton Advocates for Justice and one of the event’s organizers, said. “We made 550 postcards and had around 200 people coming in and out. We had faculty participate more, as well as people from the Princeton community at large. It was very successful and very encouraging.”
The planning process for the event started at the end of January, directly after President Trump issued executive orders on immigration.
“It began with a lot of different student groups coming together and forming a coalition,” Ramzie Fathy ’20, another organizer, said. “We met a few times to plan out the process and how we wanted to approach this. We decided on phone backing and postcard writing as the best way to reach the most representatives.”
“It was an organic, natural process,” Negron-Reichard added. “[Trump] had just issued executive orders on immigration, so campus leaders from different groups just started talking.”
These conversations eventually turned into an official meeting in which the group decided on the name of the organization and conceptualized the Day of Action.
“We were brainstorming ways to release anger and frustration,” Soraya Morales Nunez ’18, another organizer, said. “There are more than 25 student groups on the board.”
This frustration was a common sentiment expressed by many of the event’s attendees.
“I think that the attitudes and views toward immigrants are very skewed and misinformed. The world would be a better place if there wasn’t such a xenophobic fever going on in the United States,” Dan Sturm ’19 said. “This was an issue before Trump was president, but now it’s becoming much more of an issue and it doesn’t look like progress is going to made soon unless there’s some kind of resistance.”
According to Fathy, Princeton Advocates for Justice reached out to 41 other universities, and ten hosted similar Days of Action.
“We let them know, ‘here’s what we’re doing and here’s how,’ so it’s unified,” he said.
“When we realized how much attention the event was getting, with over a thousand kids signing onto the Facebook event, we were sure other schools would be interested,” Negron-Reichard added. “We reached out to other schools, really through personal connections, and people we knew were campus leaders.”
“Groups of students came together to make a difference and stand up for basic human rights,” Nicholas Wu ’18 said. “It’s really heartening to see how many people came through. A lot of people felt hopeless or helpless in response to the election. We want to show them they can make their voices heard through civic advocacy.”
Wu is an Associate Opinion Editor for the ‘Prince.’
According to Wu, Princeton Advocates for Justice’s next event will be a benefit concert held Feb. 24 in Richardson Auditorium. The concert will feature performances by various student groups.