Tag Archives: Immigration

Princeton a more inclusive place under Lempert

By Jennifer Garcia

Los Angeles, CA

As a Latina, walking down the street anywhere that isn’t home can be frightening and dissociative, with the feeling of not blending in with those around around me. Today, there’s a special layer of sensitivity among the community, which often clouds our mindset and distorts how we navigate the world. 

In Princeton, the narrow, busy streets are filled with small local shops. The cleanliness of the atmosphere makes clear that its residents have money. The people I see walking down the street are mostly white. A person of color, especially one with brown skin and dark hair like me, does not blend in. But the woman who greets me with a smile at the door makes me feel comfortable. She offers information with empathy in her soft voice, treating everyone as equals in her office. 

The woman is Princeton’s mayor, Liz Lempert. Under her leadership, Princeton does not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in immigration cases. Lempert advocates against the detention and deportation of immigrants in Princeton—or anywhere. 

The mayor’s office itself is a representation of her values. Behind Lempert’s desk are compartments decorated with books and family photos. Letters, one of which appeared to be written by a very young child, said “Dear Mayor Lempert” in crayon, with a rainbow and happy face in each corner. 

When discussing the current presidential administration, frustration and disbelief appear on Lempert’s face before she even speaks. When asked about her favorite publications and podcasts, the happiness and lighthearted nature of her persona returns and radiates the room. Lempert’s eyes glimmer as she recalls her childhood in California. Her parents and grandparents were Jewish immigrant, and Lempert still remembers her family’s struggle to assimilate in the United States. Though Lempert is short and slim, she draws attention toward her. Her voice is both quiet and confident, gentle but firm.

Despite the upheaval surrounding immigration across the country, the mayor is proud of her town. She recalls the numerous rallies held in front of the town’s library on June 30, the start of a municipal ID program for immigrants, and ceremonies held for the citizenship for immigrants. While Princeton residents have been supportive, the mayor receives letters filled with hatred sent from elsewhere.

Lempert emphasizes the protection of children and the need to keep immigrants as well as their family and friends informed of their rights and options for protection. “If you’re the victim of a crime,” Lempert explains, “we don’t care what your immigration status is.”

Walking back from her office, I saw the clean streets differently, the white people differently. I didn’t feel so out of place anymore. 

Chief: Police won’t ask about immigration status, unless arresting

By Katheryn Quijada-Polanco

Oakland, CA

The man was unconscious. He’d been beaten and robbed. Nick Sutter, then a young detective in Princeton, feared he’d never catch the person who did it. That wasn’t because the attacker’s identity was unknown — the victim’s family knew exactly who was responsible. But they were undocumented immigrants from Guatemala and terrified that, if they talked to police, they’d be deported.

Sutter is now Princeton’s chief of police. That case, in particular, helped shape how he wants his officers to police immigrant and minority communities: by gaining their trust instead of instilling fear.

In many crimes, Sutter recently told The Princeton Summer Journal, victims are targeted “specifically because of their immigration status and their perceived hesitation to cooperate with law enforcement.” He added, “we’ve been trying to overcome that stigma with our community for a long time.”

Several recent incidents have made Sutter’s job harder. In 2016, Imani Perry, a Princeton African-American studies professor, was pulled over for speeding and then arrested on a warrant for unpaid parking violations. Perry’s account of being searched by a white male officer and handcuffed to a table at the police station made national headlines. Then, earlier this year, amid a national debate over officer-involved shootings, a mentally-troubled veteran named Scott L. Mielentz charged into a Panera Bread near the university with a bb gun. After an hours-long standoff, state troopers fatally shot him. “When a life is taken it’s not something that you get over quickly,” Sutter said.

Sutter lamented the mistrust between some residents and law enforcement—he said he became an officer to protect those who can’t protect themselves and shared several ideas for how to fix this. First, expand the department’s inventory of less-lethal weapons such as bean bags, tasers, batons, and pepper spray to better help officers disarm unstable people.

Sutter also wants his officers to wear body cameras to show the public that they’re trustworthy. He also plans to continue to diversify the department.

After all, he only solved the case of the man beaten into coma because someone from the Guatemalan community convinced the family to talk.

Chief seeks to build bridges

By Jesse Mendoza

South Gate, CA

Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter understands why immigrant families might be fearful of the police. Sutter, a department veteran of 24 years, has always been aware of the possible disconnect between the police department and immigrant communities.

According to Sutter, immigrants are oftentimes wary of interacting with police because they fear deportation. Yet, Sutter is concerned how misconceptions of law enforcement can discourage and deter immigrants in the community from calling for help when in need.

Sutter recalls a situation in his career when an undocumented, Hispanic man was sent to the hospital after a gruesome beating left him horribly injured to the point of comatose.

Sutter tried to question the victim’s family to find possible leads. He was certain that the family knew who the culprit was, but the undocumented relatives resisted interacting with the police. Because Sutter understood why the family was fearful around investigators, he made the conscious decision to stop approaching the family and find alternative witnesses.

Despite the additional time and energy, Sutter was eventually able to find the culprit.

On a recent afternoon, Sutter walked into a Princeton classroom wearing a light blue suit and a gentle smile. Using a calm yet confident tone, he introduced himself as the Police Chief of Princeton, then sat down, maintaining his dominant stature. “If [an immigrant’s] child is sick,” Sutter said, “We don’t want them not to dial 9-1-1 because they are scared that we’re going to ask about their immigration status.”

Sutter is determined the change the perception that police might ask about immigration status not only for immigrants but for the wider Princeton community. Sutter has implemented procedures that are similar to sanctuary cities with policies that limit cooperation with the federal government in enforcing immigration law.

In Princeton, immigrants won’t be asked their citizenship status unless they’re arrested for a crime such as driving under the influence.

Sutter has also pushed for “community policing events,” where law enforcement can socialize with immigrants. Every squad on the force is required to participate in an event such as a car wash or barbeque to get to know the wider Princeton community.

Misconceptions aren’t only an issue for police officers and immigrants, but also a problem for doctors and politicians and professionals in other fields. Sutter knows that such perceptions are harmful and false and has made it his mission to change them.

Princetonians divided on immigration border crisis

By Paige Pagan
Bronx, N.Y.

Tens of thousands of undocumented, unaccompanied minors from Central America have recently passed over the United States border. Parents from countries including Guatemala and Honduras have been paying smugglers in a desperate attempt to have their children whisked away to the safety of the United States.

This ever-growing problem is focused in Texas. Containment hotels and refugee camps are being filled by the day, and places to send these incoming children are increasingly running out. Now, some view government officials as babysitters to care for these children. Continue reading

Children at border should be given a chance

By Diego Pineda
Raleigh, N.C.

Tens of thousands of children from Central America are currently in detention centers around the border area. After traveling thousands of miles — trekking on top of a train known as “La Bestia” (“The Beast”) and crossing the desert —  these innocent children were caught by the United States Border Patrol as they had one foot inside and the other foot outside of making their dreams come true.

Escaping violence, poverty, deficiency of resources and persecution, the children are only seeking a light to the end of their tunnel. This tunnel might be dark and lonely as they walk through a desert that undergoes extremes of hot and cold temperatures. As they make their way through the Central American borders and Mexico, they tend to lack food and shelter. Everywhere they go there are dangerous people who try to sexually abuse them or get them to join gangs. Continue reading

Princetonians express mixed feelings on border crisis

By Vanessa Zamora
Vista, Calif.

As the border crisis in Texas worsens daily, with an average of 155 undocumented children crossing every day, the opinions of Americans have grown more complicated. Recent interviews of Princeton residents confirm the complex and conflicted nature of the crisis.

“It’s not a humanitarian crisis — it’s a safety crisis,” said Steve Beamer, 61, of Princeton. When asked if he thought the children’s reason for crossing the border was valid, he replied, “It’s a good excuse.”

Beamer said that he had no problem with immigration, and that he knows that the United States was built upon immigrants. However, he believes that it should be done through legal means. Continue reading

Princetonians divided on border crisis

By Razia Sultana
Brooklyn, N.Y.

The recent crisis at the Southwestern border of Texas has sparked a dialogue within Princeton. On a recent Saturday, residents offered their perspectives on the controversial topic, adding to an ongoing national conversation.

Since last October, there has been an influx of undocumented immigrants entering the United States. According to the New York Times, nearly 63,000 undocumented minors remain detained in hotel spaces throughout the country. Congress continues to debate possible solutions for this humanitarian crisis. Continue reading