Jersey City, Newark pledge to remain ‘sanctuary’ cities


Amid mass demonstrations across the country protesting the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency and his plan to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants, two cities in New Jersey have reaffirmed their “commitment to remain welcoming and inclusive.”

In Jersey City, where Filipinos comprise one of the biggest ethnic communities, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution on November 22 reaffirming the city’s “commitment to ensuring that Jersey City remains a welcoming and inclusive city for all of our residents, irrespective of background or immigration status, and will take all appropriate steps to protect our residents from hate, injustice, and hostility.”

A parent-led unity gathering at the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza came out to support the city’s adherence to inclusivity and diversity.

The Municipal Council first passed a resolution in 1996, declaring the City of Jersey City a safe haven or sanctuary for its non-citizen residents. The current resolution offered by the council reaffirms that “City resources are not to be used to identify, persecute, apprehend, or deport any non-citizen resident.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, Jersey City’s estimated population of 264,277 is approximately 41 percent foreign-born (109,186).

Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro

Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro

Furthermore, Council President Rolando Lavarro will spearhead filling Jersey City’s nine-member Immigrant Affairs Commission , which would advise Jersey City government on issues affecting immigrants, including civil and human rights, social services, education, and business development. The commission shall serve without compensation, its members to be appointed by the Mayor.

“At this time when anti-immigrant sentiment appears to be at its height, we want the people of Jersey City to know that we will protect all its residents from hate and prejudice, and will continue to promote and institute policies that value diversity and everyone’s dignity,” said Lavarro in a statement.

Jersey City maintains an Office of Welcoming Communities that will continue to connect immigrant residents with resources to learn their rights and responsibilities, obtain legal assistance, and derive the full benefit of living in Jersey City and United States.

Meanwhile in Newark, New Jersey’s most populous city, Mayor Ras Baraka announced on November 21 the city’s plans to continue to comply with federal agencies in handling undocumented immigrants.

He said: “In Newark, we comply with federal immigration agencies, but insist that detainer requests be handled constitutionally. I hope that no president would violate those principles, the very foundation of our nation, by taking punitive action against cities that are simply protecting the well-being of residents.”

Baraka continued, “We do not hold undocumented inmates in jail at the request of the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless the detainer request is accompanied by a judge’s order.”

“Despite the election of Donald Trump, we see no reason to change that policy.”

With their mayors’ separate statements, Newark and Jersey City join other ‘sanctuary’ cities — New York, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles Oakland in Calif., Providence in R.I., Santa Fe in N.M., Denver, and Washington, D.C. – in opposing President-Elect Trump’s plan to go after undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary cities are known to provide services and legal protection to all its residents regardless of immigration status.

Trump has threatened to cut or withhold federal funding for defiant cities.

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