NJ Push For Sanctuary Cities at Statewide, Local Levels

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

[Two recent articles in Reporte Hispano, the first by Gery Vereau, touched on the topic of sanctuary cities.]

New Jersey legislators introduced an innovative alternative to the possible loss of federal funding for sanctuary cities in the United States.

To announce the introduction of the bill, representatives of Hudson County’s 33rd Legislative District, Senator Brian P. Stack and assembly members Annette Chaparro and Raj Mukherji, came together to speak to the local press.

Senator Stack, who is also the mayor of Union City, announced that the purpose of the piece of legislation is to allow the affected municipalities to apply to the state Commissioner of Community Affairs and receive a dollar-for-dollar match of the money they are owed if the federal funds are cut. The bill’s number in the senate is S3007 and was introduced on Monday, February 7. In the assembly, it is A4590 and, at press time, it had yet to be assigned a date of introduction.

The three legislators have joined forces to prevent funding cuts to any city.

Union City alone, which has an annual budget of $112 million, would lose $2 million in federal funding.

“Like Union City, New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the nation. Our immigrant communities have enriched the history of our state and contributed to its culture and prosperity,” said Stack. “We want to protect them regardless of their current immigration status or their nation of origin.”

Some 10 cities in the state have declared themselves immigrant sanctuaries, basically because they do not use local resources to apply immigration laws or because their local police do not collaborate in the identification or detention of undocumented immigrants.

Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro said that New Jersey and the United States have always maintained the principle that it does not matter where people come from but where they are going, “and when policies aim to vilify immigrant communities who have made contributions that are very important to our democracy, we take our neighbors’ side.”

Additionally, Assemblyman Mukherji stressed that mayors and local police chiefs should not be split between those who do make the correct moral choice of protecting residents and those who collaborate with federal authorities to keep families separated just to avoid losing federal funds and be forced to raise local taxes.

“The state must come out in defense of those municipalities who are only doing the right thing to keep families together in their cities,” he said.

In addition to Union City, the legislators have jurisdiction over other cities such as Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken.

Demands for Sanctuary City in New Brunswick

A crowd of more than 100 people congregated outside New Brunswick’s city hall to demand that Mayor Jim Cahill declare the town a sanctuary city and establish a municipal rule to forbid the police from cooperating with immigration authorities.

The demonstration came about after city hall spokeswoman Jennifer Bradshaw told newspaper The Daily Targum that New Brunswick is not a sanctuary city and that the police department will follow the rules established by the office of the Middlesex County prosecutor, the attorney general and the federal government regarding investigations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The decision made by city hall to cooperate with the federal government in ICE’s operations in the city generated a sense of unease and concern among the population, 38.3 percent of whom are immigrants, according to census figures.

After the call was made to demonstrate on Tuesday, Mayor Cahill, a Democrat, released a statement in which he said that he will support the immigrant community and that the police will not participate in raids or investigations related to undocumented residents.

Cahill added that the police has worked hard to earn the trust of undocumented residents and that they will not carry out actions that may affect this relationship. He also pointed out that the city has put its services at the community’s disposal regardless of the immigration status of the beneficiaries.

Still, the mayor’s kind words did not convince the demonstrators. Craig García, from the organization New Jersey Working Families Alliance, said during the protest that “we don’t want words, but action.”

García and the protesters demanded the city’s approval of a municipal ordinance to establish anti-discrimination policies and to forbid the local police from collaborating with immigration authorities.

Fear has increased in the last few weeks among New Brunswick’s immigrant residents with the news of the presence of ICE agents in the city’s streets.

During the demonstration, a Hispanic woman spoke about how her stepfather was detained by immigration authorities on Monday, January 30, by immigration officials as he waited for a bus in the city’s downtown area.

The young woman, who preferred not to give her name for fear of repercussions with immigration authorities, said that her stepfather was approached as he waited for the bus by a person in plain clothes who started to interrogate him and then arrested him.

The Hispanic woman said that her stepfather had been detained at the border 6 years ago as he was trying to cross, but had been released. She added that her mother is ill and her stepfather was the family’s only source of income.

The woman’s stepfather is held at a detention center in Essex and awaits a hearing with the judge.

Teresa Vivar, from the organization Lazos América Unida said that these true stories, the suffering caused by the way New Brunswick families are being forcefully separated, must reach the mayor so that he can understand the importance of helping the community.

For her part, Cayetana, a Mexican immigrant living in New Brunswick who chose not to give her last name because she is undocumented, said that, in the 20 years she has lived in the city, she had never been afraid to be on the street. However, Trump’s arrival and city hall’s position to refrain from establishing policy to protect all immigrants have led her to feel less confident walking down the street. This fear drove her to participate in a demonstration for the first time in her life.

Activist Craig García invited all protesters to participate in the city council’s next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 15, to demand the approval of an ordinance to declare New Brunswick a sanctuary city, the same way Jersey City recently did.

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