Interfaith Prayer March Urges Humane Reforms For Mercer Immigrants
Approximately 250 Mercer County immigrants and their supporters marched down the streets of Princeton on Saturday, July 24, to urge humane immigrant reforms in Central New Jersey. The march commenced in Palmer Square and was followed by an interfaith prayer service at St. Paul's Catholic Church.
"We Are All God's Children, We Are All Immigrants" was the theme for the march, which will be repeated on July 31 in Trenton. Maria Juega, a community organizer with the Latin American Task Force of Princeton said the marches are a result of a number of Mercer County immigrants being taken away from their families in recent weeks by immigration officers. These events have been a traumatic experience for both the families and the community at large.
"There have been incidents [of deportation] in other parts of New Jersey, but within the last couple months Mercer County has been targeted more," she said.
In the past Trenton had been a high incident area; however, Hightstown is now climbing in the number of immigrants that are being deported as well, said Ms. Juega. Both Borough and Township Police said there have been no recent reports of deportation in Princeton.
Community pastors organized the march to express their concern for the distress over deportation spreading among their congregations and to show community support for these families. Local congregations hope the march will prompt congressional representatives to enact immigration reform in response to the problems faced by the estimated 8 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
According to Ms. Juega, some members of the Hispanic community in Princeton hung back for fear of being detected by local law enforcement, but as the march continued, more and more immigrants from the community fell into rank with the others.
"The individuals that have been taken away are hardworking people who, in spite of their legal status, have made a home in Mercer County for themselves and their families," said Marlene Lao-Collins, associate director of Social Concerns for the New Jersey Catholic Conference. "Very often, families left behind in their country rely on the income sent home by those who come here to work."
Comprehensive and humane immigration reforms are what is needed to keep the basic rights these immigrants deserve, said Ms. Juega: "Forcing a population of millions underground is a security threat, economically counter-productive, and erodes the principles on which this country stands."
Some of the organizations which participated in this march include Nassau Presbyterian Church, Princeton United Methodist Church, Friends Meeting of Princeton, String of Pearls Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey Immigration & Refuge Services, and Christ the King Episcopal.