Immigrants in State College might be feeling the same strife as immigrants all over the country right now, but Mayor Elizabeth Goreham wants them to know they can feel safe in the borough.
“Here in State College, we have reaffirmed our standard practice in the police department by never asking about immigration status. That is obviously to maintain a trusting relationship so if there ever is a problem, someone from another country who feels harassed can feel free to call the police,” she said. The only time the State College police would investigate an individuals’ immigration status is if the individual was being investigated for a criminal case, Goreham added.
She said Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration doesn’t reflect well on our democracy.
“Things have changed. There is a new atmosphere. One of the things that hit us immediately was the concern of our residents.” She explained a recent incident at the Home Delivery Pizza on South Atherton St. where three Spanish speaking customers were asked by a stranger to present their green cards and told they had to speak English. The store owners attended the Campus and Community United group session afterwards, which is a group formed by former police chief Tom King for residents to have an open dialogue. The store owners went to ask how they should have responded at the time because they were unsure, Goreham said.
It’s becoming harder to differentiate between what warrants a reaction and what doesn’t — through the anger and resentment this election cycle has evoked, the biggest issue seems to be confusion. “I think Mr. Trump comes from a professional background, construction, that is relatively conservative… they have long established practices of how they operate, how they think, how they look at things. Other parts of our society have changed a lot but that part of society hasn’t changed much.”
Millions of people from around the world marched after Trump’s inauguration to protest the uber-conservative values of their president; Goreham was impressed with the protesters. The incredible success of the women’s march and the peacefulness of it surprised her. Even here in State College by the Allen Street Gates, the protesters caught her attention. “Those just happened. It’s amazing how active people have become community members too. I think this moment is good and I’m glad people care and are paying attention.”
Trump suffers from that lack of evolving in a changing environment and only seeing what he views as being safe in Goreham’s opinion. “There’s so many other parts of society that have changed, so he’s going to get a lot of pushback and it may not be able to go back to what he wants.”
The main drive for Goreham being mayor is she thinks democracy begins right at the local level. “You can see the actions of your elected officials and see the impact. You can talk to them and know them. They are creating where you live.” She said the Borough Council isn’t here to weed anyone out; those who sit on the Council are here to accept everyone on their own merits.