Unifying the Community, Engaging Local Law Enforcement to Build a Healthier Trenton

NJHI 2015: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action Trenton Healthy Food Network - Growing a Healthier Trenton

Two of the vulnerable populations that have seen an immediate increase and need for services in Trenton and across the nation are the Muslim and immigrant communities. In Trenton, there are more than 20,000 immigrants from all over the world. Jointly with the municipal government of the City of Trenton, Live Healthy Trenton collaborative partners have been working to assure public safety and civil rights during a time of uncertainty for immigrants. Know Your Rights information sessions have been held throughout the city recently. At these events, Trenton police officers and attorneys offer presentations to immigrant community members as well as staff of partner service-providing agencies. These presentations explain the differences between local police enforcement and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The local police explain the importance of reporting crime, and of understanding the protections afforded to witnesses and victims of crimes. The attorneys provide legal context for the law enforcement presentations and to answer attendees’ legal questions.

Our community’s immigrant families say they are fearful and feel they have been caught in limbo. Meanwhile, the Trenton Police Department does not want to see a decrease in witnesses or victims coming forward with helpful information. Neither does the department want local families to be targeted because of their immigration status. Recently we have seen a decline in local SNAP and WIC redemption rates, and a decline in women seeking prenatal care, while emergency food pantries are seeing an increase in activity. The Trenton School District has reported low attendance rates among immigrant students, and adult ESL classes have seen reduced attendance and enrollment for future sessions. Many immigrants have reported feeling increased anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In the coming months and perhaps years, Trenton’s immigrant community will need mental health support, family guidance, and legal assistance.

Together, we can spread a message of love and we can combat fear. Immigrants are welcome in our community and Mayor Jackson has made that clear. Trenton is a safe place for immigrants and the members of Live Healthy Trenton will work to ensure that all Trenton residents remain connected to the resources they need to live healthy lives.


Photo: A rally to unify the Trenton community, sponsored by Mayor Jackson at Trenton City Hall on February 13, 2017.

Adriana Abizadeh