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The Borough Council Passes Resolution To Rebuild Trust With Latino Community

Candace Braun

In an effort to rebuild trust between police and the Latino community after a recent immigration raid in town, Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution last week calling for immigration reforms in the federal government.

The resolution states that the Borough "strongly disapproves of any conduct of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) that creates needless mistrust and fear of the Princeton Borough Police Department and other municipal agencies which are committed to help, rather than harm, productive and valuable members of our community."

It also calls on the federal government to conduct its work in a "humane and professional manner," which would include allowing the individuals to present themselves to BICE officers before trespassing into their home; entering a home or workplace only with an arrest warrant; refraining from forcefully entering a home without an arrest warrant; taking into custody only those individuals for whom BICE officers have an arrest warrant; and encouraging detained individuals without deportation orders to seek a hearing before an immigration judge.

"We have people in our community whom we value and the federal government should recognize our concerns," said Councilman David Goldfarb.

Approximately 75 residents attended the Council meeting on November 9, many of them Latino residents who had come to show their support for the resolution.

"I want to thank [Council] for all its efforts to look at us in a humanly way Š and making us feel safer," said Eduardo Gonzales, a Latino resident living on Leigh Avenue.

"We commend Borough Council for their prompt response," said Maria Juega, chair of the Latin-American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Princeton, who headed a march for immigration rights on November 6 in the Borough. She added that over 200 people signed a petition during the march in favor of the Borough's resolution.

The resolution also calls for BICE officials to refrain from inquiring into the immigration status of other individuals arrested during a raid, and for BICE officials to clearly identify themselves as "federal immigration officers" and not "police" when performing a raid, a measure crucial to the trust between immigrants and Borough Police. That trust was undermined during the mid-October raid that resulted in the arrest of eight immigrants by BICE officials, when there were warrants for only two of the men.

Because BICE officials identified themselves as police rather than immigration officers, local immigrants immediately assumed local police were to blame for the raid. Although Borough Police were only asked to be present as a safety measure, the mistrust that has since developed between local immigrants and the police could cause many undocumented immigrants to stay closed-mouth during a fire, vehicle accident, or criminal act in fear of being subjected to questioning that could lead to deportation, according to former Borough Councilman Ryan Stark Lilienthal.

An immigration attorney in the Borough, Mr. Lilienthal had previously attended a late October Council meeting to ask that the Borough consider adopting an ordinance that would eliminate local police involvement in immigration raids. The ordinance is currently under examination by the Borough's public safety committee.

In the meantime, this resolution speaks clearly to national policy and acknowledges the problems of illegal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigrants, said Mr. Lilienthal. The resolution was also heavily supported by the Borough Police Department, said Capt. Anthony Federico: "We protect and serve everyone and don't want to lose anyone's support."

Among those who felt that the Borough should do more than pass a resolution was Township resident Martin Oppenheimer, who came here from Germany during World War II.

"I find the whole idea of taking people from their homes Š to be totally contrary to the American way of doing things," he said.

Council President Mildred Trotman responded that the resolution was the quickest way to move forward and show the Borough's displeasure to the government.

Copies of the resolution will be sent to President George Bush, the U.S. Attorney General, the Department of Homeland Security, and BICE.

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