Latinos and immigrants with the organization Make the Road Action New Jersey presented the “New Jersey Fights Back” platform, a proposal addressed to the next governor detailing eight steps to follow to turn New Jersey into a sanctuary state.
The 16-page proposal lays out a path to protecting undocumented immigrants on the issues of justice, health, education and affordable housing.
It even advocates for legal residents under 5 years of age who have a green card (permanent residency) but lack access to Medicaid.
Mayra Galicia, whose brother Humberto Cantero was detained in Monmouth County and transferred to ICE after being arrested for driving without a license, offered her testimony in favor of a sanctuary state.
“My brother has been detained for almost two months by ICE because Monmouth County allows ICE into its jails as per a 287(g) agreement,” she said, referring to the rule authorizing keeping him in jail even though a judge ordered his release.
For his part, Edison Hernández wants to see the state take measures to protect its residents regardless of what happens at the federal level.
“The Trump administration wants to pass over the protections available at our work places and keep our salaries at absurd levels. We will be knocking on doors and calling voters to ensure that our elected officials and the new governor will defend a stronger Department of Labor, a $15 minimum wage and labor laws,” said Hernández, who is an activist with the group.
The plan establishes that, under a sanctuary state, the governor may order local jails to refuse to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to retain individuals after their release has been authorized.
Among other points, the proposal recommends issuing driver’s licenses to non-residents – a measure long-awaited by undocumented immigrants – which would make roads and neighborhoods safer.
The document arrives at a key moment: The primaries to choose the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor will be held on June 6. The election will be held in November.
“We think that there is a need for a sanctuary state after eight years of the Christie administration. He has taken rights and programs away from the working class, and now [we have] Donald Trump, who is threatening immigrant rights by passing over the law,” said Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road Action New Jersey.
Olga Armas, an activist and leader of the organization, firmly believes that the document is a step forward for the protection of immigrants in the state.
“This platform establishes a clear plan to allow the Garden State to fight against the federal administration’s attacks on immigrants and workers. We will exercise our power at the ballot box and in our neighborhoods to turn New Jersey into a leader in the struggle against a policy of hatred that seeks to divide families, take protections out of the workplace and deprive us of health care,” said Armas.
Finally, Cullinane said that, in a sanctuary state, the attorney general is able to prevent non-sanctuary cities or counties from collaborating with ICE to detain immigrants who are not criminals or a threat to national security.
At the event, Cullinane announced that the New Jersey group had registered as a 501(c)(4) organization to operate as a legal defense group to publicly defend immigrants by expressing opinions on related issues.