By Danielle Emerson
On a Friday afternoon, Albert Rivera took the train home from work. His eyes were on his phone the entire time. The message would have been lost in his email if he had not glanced at it that morning. A member of Princeton University faced legal complications at the airport. Rivera was busy texting an attorney. This was right after President Trump announced the travel ban.
Ten percent of Princeton students are international students. As a staff member of the Davis International Center, Rivera has dealt with university immigration issues since 2011. He interacts regularly with students and recalls an immediate increase of anxiety and fear among Princetonians after the inauguration. He expressed genuine concern about the future of international students. “The university will support them vigorously,” he said. Rivera spent the Friday after the travel ban was announced receiving distressing messages from the attorney working with the Princetonian stuck at the airport. He was not alone in his fear.
Tennille Haynes, the director of Princeton’s Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, said she worries for her students. Many international students cannot participate in multiple academic programs, such as study abroad. Haynes said that “helping students deal with these situations opened her eyes” to the privileges and opportunities she had that others do not in this day and age. She argued that Trump’s travel ban and his other policies “weren’t very clear” and created “a lot of confusion” on campus among the students and faculty.
Haynes proudly proclaimed that Princeton is very supportive of international students, pointing to the university’s wide range of available resources. “On campus, there is a full-time person who helps international students,” she said. Rivera says Princeton offers extra protection for its undocumented community. Rivera said concerned students can learn more through workshops, cultural adjustment programs, and attorney-led sessions provided by the university.
With the rise of the Trump administration, Haynes said that a lot of undocumented students “have not come out.” Though the university provides lawyers for students struggling with the immigration system, coverage does not extend to their families. “This is a very difficult situation, a very unfair situation,” Haynes said, but Rivera acknowledged that “the university has to comply with the law.”
While administrators struggle with the legalities, student activists around campus have been pushing for change. Nicholas Wu, a senior at Princeton University and an associate opinion editor at The Daily Princetonian, led the Day of Action for marginalized communities on March 6. Everyone has to “take a stand for their principles,” Wu said. The Trump administration, in Wu’s opinion, had made no positive changes, and he laughed at the mere mention of “Trump” and “positive” used in the same sentence. But he does feel that the president brought people together. “If it took Trump to do [the travel ban] to make everyone work together – I guess you can call that a positive thing.”
After the recent election, several Princetonians experienced anxiety and depression. According to Haynes, visitation rates at the university’s various student resource centers have increased, suggesting that many students, including undocumented students, are struggling in school. “You should matter if you’re undocumented. You’re here for your education,” Haynes said.
As the train pulled into the station the day of the travel ban, Rivera got a text message. He received a one-word response from the attorney who had been working with the Princetonian detained at the airport: “Success.” “I felt relief,” Rivera said. However, he knew there was still more work to be done.