Maplewood Says Yes to Sanctuary Status, Orange Stalls
The city of Maplewood is the first one to declare itself a sanctuary city in New Jersey this year, while neighboring Orange appears undecided. Both townships are located in Essex County. On Jan. 17, Maplewood chose to become a sanctuary city, and its mayor immediately stood behind the measure. “Maplewood is – and will continue to be – welcoming and open, embracing individuals of diverse racial, ethnic, religious and national backgrounds, and different ages and sexual orientation,” said Mayor Victor DeLuca.
He added: “Given the current political climate in Washington [with the advent of Donald Trump as president] it is important for the Maplewood Township Committee to be very clear about our intentions of upholding constitutional rights and liberties for all.”
DeLuca said that his city will not participate in policies that divide people based on citizenship or immigration status, or register people because of their country of origin or their beliefs.
In order to implement this measure, the approved resolution orders the municipality, local agencies and the city police to refrain from collaborating with federal immigration and customs agencies and authorities in identifying or detaining immigrants whose suspected crime is related to their legal status.
The measure was proposed at the request of local residents, community-based organizations and elected officials – from the mayor to council members – concerned about what might happen as the new administration enters Washington. Craig García, director of the NJ Working Families Alliance, said that these actions are being taken as a preventive measure in response to the president’s cam- paign announcements vowing to deport undocumented people. He added that the next step is to push to make New Jersey a sanctuary state. “As we get closer to having a presidency committed to deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, we must take measures to defend our immigrant communities,” said Gar- cía.
On the other hand, the city of Orange, which expected a favorable vote for a similar resolution on the same night, tabled the measure to become a sanctuary city. That means that the measure was still pending revision and reading, and it is expected to be reviewed again in four weeks, according to activists.
Opinions in the Orange Township City Council are divided. One member of the council who opposed the resolution was Christopher Jackson, who said that he defended immigrants and that they needed to be supported, but added that he did not see the urgency in adopting the definition.
“We disagree with Councilman Jackson and Councilwoman Tency Eason because of their lack of understanding of what Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been and the immigrant community’s concern over what might happen,” said Virgilio Arán, co-founder of the Laundry Workers Center, which is promoting the project.
“I want to think that it is due to lack of knowledge, not fear, coming from one or two members of the council, rather than a refusal to pass the resolution. In other cities, legislators have not been ambivalent: They are either for or against it. Here, they don’t seem to have made up their mind yet,” said the activist. Finally, local advocates and organizations have requested a meeting with Police Director Todd Warren [which was scheduled for Jan. 24], who will explain the implications that declaring Orange a sanctuary city would have for the area’s law enforcement.