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.
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