Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 2
 
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
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Raids by U.S. Immigration Officials Threaten Constitutional Protections

ROBERT L. ASHBAUGH
Mercer Street

Township Committee Urged to Preserve Beneficial Forest on Princeton Ridge

JANE BUTTARS
Dodds Lane

Township Is Rewriting Laws of Nature in Revising Its Definition of Seniors

CHRIS HEDGES
EUNICE WONG
Jefferson Road

Suggestions Offered on How to Make Town More Conscious of Sustainability

ELEANOR J. LEWIS
Linden Lane

A “Dear Santa” Letter Encapsulates Christmas Joy for a Homeless Child

CONNIE MERCER
Executive Director
Homefront


Raids by U.S. Immigration Officials Threaten Constitutional Protections

To the Editor:

On December 7, just after 5 a.m., special agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided a house in Princeton looking for a man who did not live there, and who was unknown to the tenants. It was a case of wrong man, wrong house.

Nonetheless, once in the house, ICE detained seven other residents, now incarcerated at its Elizabeth detention center. ICE did not have a search warrant or consent to enter the house. What ICE had was a Supreme Court decision stating that it would not apply the constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection to a civil immigration proceeding if no criminal charges are filed. Thus, ICE can avoid constitutional sanctions by only filing administrative charges, which still are enough to sustain incarceration and removal from the United States. The Supreme Court decision (INS v. Lopez-Mendoza) stated it might revisit its decision if such violations were widespread.

The Princeton raid does not prove widespread violations, but was one of many raids in New Jersey in December, and the number of collateral detainees, e.g., people ICE detained while searching for someone else, was substantial. The Newhouse News Service reports that ICE apprehension teams are under a quota to detain 1,000 aliens per team. This puts tremendous pressure on ICE agents to press their entry into residences and sweep up in their dragnet as many people as they can. The risk of ICE violations becoming widespread is great.

The Department of Justice under Attorney General Janet Reno refused to apply quotas to its enforcement efforts for ethical reasons, because, it said, the judgments of its law enforcement personnel “must never be perceived as being influenced by ‘bounty hunting,’ i.e. striving to reach a targeted goal, without regard to the activity’s larger purpose.”

We, the citizenry, must be vigilant to these matters. “Our” rights are jeopardized every time “theirs” are diluted. It is time to reexamine both the use of quotas by ICE and the application of the constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections to ICE raids on private residences.

ROBERT L. ASHBAUGH
Mercer Street

Township Committee Urged to Preserve Beneficial Forest on Princeton Ridge

To the Editor:

All over the world, people are planting trees. Why? Trees absorb carbon dioxide, the gas most responsible for global warming. A single tree absorbs one ton of this gas over its lifetime. Trees convert the sun’s energy into food and oxygen for life on earth, a process that has not yet been replaced by human technology. Trees keep us cool in the summer, break the wind in the winter, and purify polluted air.

Here in Princeton, there exists an irreplaceable resource: a dense forest with many mature trees of high quality. The trees on the Princeton Ridge provide us with additional benefits. Their roots prevent soil erosion by anchoring the thin layer of topsoil, and absorb water that cannot be filtered by the hard rock characteristic of this environmentally fragile area.

Princeton Township Committee is preparing to enact an ordinance tailored for a particular developer, which will allow him to destroy 20 acres of this Ridge forest, and not simply the land on which 158 housing units will be built. The ordinance, changing the present senior housing age from 62+ to 55+, states that 60 percent of the proposed site will be “common open space for the benefit of the residents.” What they don’t tell you is that “open space” simply means land without buildings. A developer could tear down more of the forest and build recreational facilities. And unless the 8.5 acres specified in the ordinance to “remain in an undisturbed state” is designated as deed-restricted to a conservation organization, there is no guarantee that it wouldn’t be developed in the future.

We need our natural woodland resources more than ever. We need a local government that responsibly champions sustainable land use by their deeds, not one which uses “sustainability” simply as a public relations ploy.

I urge Princeton Township Committee to keep this Ridge forest working for us by rejecting the proposed ordinance allowing high density development, and by downzoning the Ridge.

JANE BUTTARS
Dodds Lane

Township Is Rewriting Laws of Nature in Revising Its Definition of Seniors

To the Editor:

We have read the various concerns expressed in your paper by residents about the large condo development proposed for the Princeton Ridge. While the environmental issues here are serious indeed, especially in the loss of several hundred trees, we are most troubled by the crassly expedient and cavalier manner in which the Township Committee has abandoned housing for those who are truly seniors by changing the definition of senior from 62+ to 55+ in a proposed ordinance revision.

This change is being made because a developer, Robert Hillier, wants to maximize his profits by lowering the definition of “senior” and has warned local officials that he can develop the site only if he receives this age lowering. As people live longer, age 55 is the new 45. Thus, we would be moving in the wrong direction. Furthermore, people age 55 are young enough to still have students at the high school level, thus creating a school cost not generally associated with real senior housing.

When considering the definition of who is a senior, our local officials should use as a guide the qualifying age in senior programs. Most of these programs, notably Medicare, require that people be at least 65. Social Security has the same requirement and will reduce the benefit if one chooses to retire at 62.

Why is Princeton Township doing the bidding of a developer? There is no rational basis for Township Committee’s rewriting the laws of nature whereby real seniors will lose out to the still employed 55-year-olds who have the financial liquidity to gobble up the condos, leaving very few for the true seniors.

CHRIS HEDGES
EUNICE WONG
Jefferson Road

Suggestions Offered on How to Make Town More Conscious of Sustainability

To the Editor:

Borough officials talk a lot about making Princeton Borough a sustainable town. Town Topics has written hundreds of words about this, but it is obvious from my daily walks around town that we have a long way to go.

Much less talk and a lot more action is needed. For example, the Public Library gives away free heavy plastic bags. These bags will probably take over 100 years to biodegrade and no one recycles them. None of us need another plastic bag, since we get them from every store in town. I am sure the library could find another, and better use for the money spent on those bags. If the library wants to be sustainable, it should urge patrons to reuse their plastic bags from other places or use a reusable cloth bag.

Outside the library and every school people sit in their cars with the engines running. It is particularly bad behind St. Paul’s School where at least 60 vehicles, mainly SUVs, wait daily. They probably waste hundreds of gallons of gas per month. Given the enormous pollution this produces, I think the schools or their PTAs should spend some time helping parents form car pools. Idling cars anywhere should be prohibited if longer than three minutes. Idling cars produce enormous pollution. I have observed empty official Borough vehicles with their engines running. I get upset when I see my tax dollars going out the tailpipe for no useful reason.

Princeton Borough and its agencies own many SUVs. I don’t think there is any reason for tax dollars to be spent on these gas guzzlers. The vehicle fleet should consist of energy efficient and safe vehicles as rated by Consumer Reports. The continuous lighting of the war memorial outside Borough Hall is also very wasteful of energy, especially between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when barely anyone is awake to see it. If it is going to be lighted, it should have been done with solar panels.

I urge residents to contribute their suggestions for how the Princetons could become sustainable, and report the unsustainable practices they observe.

ELEANOR J. LEWIS
Linden Lane

A “Dear Santa” Letter Encapsulates Christmas Joy for a Homeless Child

To the Editor:

During this season of giving, we are so grateful to our community and our volunteers for keeping the magic in this holiday season. Thank you.

We have been especially blessed this holiday season as over 3,300 homeless or formerly homeless HomeFront children have had their Christmas wishes granted by an outpouring of community support. I can only imagine the joy on each child’s face as presents were opened. But I witnessed the genuine gratitude from parents as they picked up the presents from our warehouse; presents for their children that they would never have been able to afford.

I want to share with you a “Dear Santa Letter” that I received this past week. It speaks from the heart.

Dear Santa, I was afraid you would not find us because we don’t have a home. But you did and brought us great stuff! Thank you for my new bike and basketball. I love them! And Tasha loves her new Barbie. My Mom said she was happy, but she kept crying when she hugged us. This was the best Christmas ever! I’m glad you found us! Sam S.

Thank you, Mercer County community, for making this holiday season so special for so many of our families.

CONNIE MERCER
Executive Director
Homefront

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