Princeton Human Services, DREAM team join initiatives to support families potentially impacted by ICE raids
The Princeton Human Services Department and the University's DREAM Team, a student group that advocates immigration reform, joined initiatives to help families that may be impacted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.
These new outreach initiatives include information sessions, held in conjunction with the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., at the St. Paul Roman Catholic Church and at public libraries to inform immigrants of their legal rights and responsibilities, noted John Heilner ’63, chair of the Human Services Commission’s immigration subcommittee.
Maria Perales ’18, a member of the Princeton DREAM team, said that many members of the organization have recently started volunteering for these information sessions, helping to inform residents around the town of their legal rights and responsibilities. Many DREAM team members have also utilized their skills in Spanish in the past to help translate and communicate legal instructions.
“We denounce the actions of ICE in conducting these raids,” Perales said.
The information session held on Feb. 7, two days after the most recent ICE raids, was attended by over 200 members of the immigrant community, Elisa Neire, executive director of the Princeton Human Services Department, said.
Among other advisories, representatives from the Human Services Department informed immigrants in attendance that they have the right to remain silent and ask for legal counsel during an ICE raid. They should also ensure that their doors are locked and that the agents have a court order or a search warrant valid for a specifically named individual before permitting agents entry.
Beyond awareness, Princeton Human Services also strives to provide support for affected individuals and families by connecting them with legal services, Neire explained.
Bill Wakefield, a volunteer member of the Human Services Commission, said that the Human Services Department has also been active in issuing Community ID cards authorized by the town at the Princeton Public Library to provide undocumented immigrants with valid identification, which provide an alternative to foreign passports or consular cards.
Perales said that members of the DREAM team have also participated and volunteered for the Community ID card distributions.
According to Perales, the DREAM team will soon partner with the Human Services Department to launch the “know your rights” campaign to distribute awareness fliers designed by the Department around the city.
“Our entire government, especially our police department, has been working to build bridges and to build trust with the immigrant community,” Mayor of Princeton Liz Lempert said.
She added that ICE’s new enforcement priority threatens to undermine progress made locally in that respect.
Wilson School lecturer Heather Howard, who serves as a member of the town council, also stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship between the immigrant community and local police.
“We’re all safer when everyone in the community feels like they can go to the police if they are a witness or a victim,” Howard said
Heilner added that gaining the trust of the immigrant community is important in terms of crime prevention and crime investigation.
The raids became an executive priority for the Department of Homeland Security in December 2015. The DHS released information that it would be conducting searches to locate people who met certain criteria, such as outstanding deportation orders or specific immigration timeframes, according to Neire.
ICE raids have been occurring periodically since the early 2000s, Neire said. A 2013 police directive passed by Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter clarified the distinction between local and federal law enforcement, particularly in the event of ICE raids, Lempert explained.
On Thursday, Feb. 4, ICE officers arrested and detained two men on Wiggins Street in Princeton, according to the Princeton Human Services Department.
Neire said that this raid is just one of many in the wave of ICE activity throughout the country.
She explained that these raids have caused a lot of anxiety in the immigrant community, prompting Human Services and local community organizations to provide sources for help and support.
Lempert added that it is important for residents to know that these raids are not carried out by local police officers.
University Media Relations Specialist Min Pullan said that she cannot comment on whether any students at the University would be jeopardized by the raids, and noted that these raids are beyond the legal scope of the Davis International Center.
The Davis International Center deferred comment to Pullan.
ICE representatives did not respond to a request for comment.