Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Maplewood officials want to designate the Township as a "sanctuary community" for undocumented immigrants, a move that would include directing local law enforcement and public officials not to aid efforts to find and prosecute those who are in the country illegally.

Township Committee Member Ian Grodman proposed the idea at Monday night's TC meeting, where he said the recent attacks on some immigrants and minorities following the election of Donald Trump has sparked concern. Trump has vowed to withhold federal funding from such communities.

"Over the course of the last week, there has been a significant increase in hate crimes towards many different groups," said Grodman, who is also an attorney working on immigrant law. "And this is a group that has been vilified throughout the presidential campaign."

New Jersey currently has 11 sanctuary cities, with Newark and Jersey City among them. Each ordinance is different, but the main thrust is that each municipality seeks to protect a specific group: in this case immigrants.

"There are anywhere between 11 and 12 million undocumented  immigrants living in the United States and people might not believe it but there are actually undocumented immigrants living in Maplewood," Grodman said. "We certainly see hundreds of undocumented immigrants coming to Maplewood every single day to work. Probably most of the people in this room have had experience working with people who are undocumented and living and working and contributing to our community and to our country."

San Francisco drew interest in 1989 when it became the first major city to enact such protections. Its ordinances, found HERE, are among those often used to model newer versions.

Grodman later added that it provides a feeling of "some sort of safety and safe space and also there are initiatives by local governments to be sure that their officials are not put into the position where they are required to or forced to comply with federal agencies who are investigating anybody's status in the United States."

Several other TC members supported the idea. 

"We're in a situation now where unprecedented threats may call for unusual action by government," said TC Member Greg Lembrich, adding that a sanctuary ordinance or resolution could "not allow Township employees to aid in prosecution of such immigrants. At least I would be in favor of making a statement in whichever way that is appropriate that Maplewood will not aid in any adverse action" against such groups.

Mayor Vic Deluca agreed: "I definitely support what you are talking about."

The TC directed Township administrators to research current sanctuary designations and bring back more specific proposals and language to the next meeting on Dec. 6.

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