Letters: Embracing Immigrants Strengthens Public Safety

To the Editor,

On July 1, 2015, Kathryn Steinle was shot in broad daylight in San Francisco.  She later died. Since the alleged perpetrator of this heinous crime is an undocumented immigrant, debate has flown around the country challenging the wisdom of municipalities, like San Francisco, which adopt policies that embrace immigrant members of their communities regardless of their immigration status.  Although the scope of these policies varies, towns that take inclusive steps are often called “sanctuary cities”.  While not calling itself a sanctuary city, Princeton has made crucial strides to build a welcoming community for our town’s immigrant population, and we appreciate and respect the contributions that immigrants, both documented and not, make – as they have throughout our history.

In response to the thoughtful pro and con comments addressing this issue that appear on Planet Princeton and in the Town Topics, it’s important to keep in mind several points:

1)  Princeton does not have a policy that provides a safe-haven for criminals.

2)  Unlike the federal government’s immigration enforcement agencies, Princeton’s local police, and the municipal government in general, is charged with ensuring the safety and welfare of all individuals living or spending time in our town.  Federal immigration enforcement officers enforce federal laws on immigration, border control, customs, etc.  Local police enforce local and state laws on crime and public safety.

3)  While the murder in San Francisco raises understandable concern, Princeton’s continuing challenge has been to gain the trust and cooperation of undocumented immigrant victims and witnesses of crimes, not with a rash of undocumented perpetrators.  Because immigrants, particularly undocumented ones, fear the possibility of immigration consequences, they do not report crimes, even when they are victims.  Several of us, who work with immigrants, have been called upon by the police to encourage immigrants to help in the investigation of crimes that include victims within and beyond the immigrant community.  The lack of trust within immigrant communities, amplified by immigration officers presenting themselves as public safety officials (even wearing clothing identifying themselves as “police”), undermines public safety not just for immigrants, but for the entire community.

To the benefit of all Princeton residents and those who value what our town has to offer, Princeton’s policy embracing immigrants strengthens public safety, not weakens it.

Respectfully submitted,

Liz Lempert, Mayor of Princeton

Heather Howard and Lance Liverman, Princeton Council

Ross Wishnick, Chair, Princeton Human Services Commission

John Heilner, Chair, Immigration Committee, Princeton Human Services Commission

Leticia Fraga, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Maria Juega, Executive Director, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, Mason Drive, Princeton

Ryan Stark Lilienthal, Maple Street, Princeton

Roger Martindell, Prospect Avenue, Princeton



  1. If an officer becomes aware that a suspect, not a witness, is undocumented, is the officer responsible to forward such information to the proper authorities?

  2. I’m all for embracing immigrants. That is, people who lawfully immigrated to our great country.
    Illegal aliens, however, should be routed and repatriated.
    One more thing: Any writer who conflates the term ‘illegal alien’ with ‘immigrant’ is intentionally trying to confuse or deceive the reader and should be branded a sophist — not worthy of anyone’s attention.

  3. Obviously the signatories to this letter consider embracing illegal aliens (they are not immigrants) who ignore US law to be more important than protecting our own citizens. This is the fallacy of so-called ‘Progressives,’ they cannot and will not allow reality or facts to alter their ‘ideals’ no matter who dies. Only their ‘vision’ counts, the rest of us do not matter to them.

  4. I agree with this letter.

    We should embrace otherwise-law abiding residents of our community despite their immigration status . . . as long as they don’t leave brush in the streets or use illegal plastic bags.

  5. Folks, immigrants are people who come to live where you do. Some are legal, some are illegal. That’s why you have to call some of them “illegal”. They are all immigrants.

    My husband is English and was insulted at the border at Newark, by the guard who told him he was not a resident because he wasn’t a citizen. We own a house in Plainsboro because he has a job at Princeton University, and yes, he is documented (and had the visa in his passport). I assure you he is residing in his (our) house. Don’t let political positions get you confused about what words mean!

    1. When criminal illegal alien felons attack and kill American citizens, “confusion about words” becomes meaningless. Those who emphasize political correctness over protecting American citizens simply have their priorities confused. They will, however, NEVER admit that.

      1. Then why are you using words to talk to me after the event? By the way, should we ban all drivers now? I hear one of them hit someone with their car and killed them.

  6. Update: Princeton Echo, October 2015
    “For me it’s important that we’re the kind of place where every resident feel they belong. I don’t think our policy is particularly radical. It’s very common sense.” Mayor Liz Lempert

    This is completely out of touch with mainstream America, where illegal aliens are not encouraged to ‘feel like they belong.’ Why on earth should we reward people who break American law by helping them feel as if they belong? That’s absolutely NOT common sense at all. But Liberals, these days, resort to the term ‘commons sense’ to justify anything, even policies that flaunt US law. Per recent polling, 62 percent of American voters want the Federal government to PUNISH sanctuary cities. Democrats … out of touch again.

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