Members of the newly formed group SOMA Action are planning to “pack SOPAC” in support of a resolution that would declare South Orange a sanctuary city on Monday night.
The resolution is to be introduced at the South Orange Village Board of Trustees meeting which begins at 8 p.m. on Monday, February 13, in the main stage area of the South Orange Performing Arts Center. (As of publication, the meeting agenda and attachments could not be accessed on southorange.org.)
The group has asked South Orange’s elected officials to adopt a resolution similar to the “Welcoming Community” resolution passed by the Maplewood Township Committee in January which codifies Maplewood’s “commitment to equal treatment of immigrants, regardless of their status.”
After passage of the Maplewood resolution, Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca said of the resolution, “I think it’s important for us as the local governing body to say that we’re clear that our intentions of upholding the constitutional rights and liberties for all and that under no circumstances will we participate in dividing people based on citizenship or immigration status, and we will not profile … people based on where they are from or what they believe.”
SOMA Action posted an open letter to the Trustees in January, and then organized a rally attended by about 250 local residents on Monday, February 6 in Spiotta Park. About 100 members of the assembled group then walked to The Baird to attend the monthly South Orange Legal and Personnel Committee meeting and urge town officials to pass a resolution making South Orange a Sanctuary City. Village President Sheena Collum read a draft of the potential resolution at the meeting.
SOMA Action plans to present a petition signed by hundreds of residents to the governing body on Monday night.
An email notice from SOMA Action encouraged members to attend Monday night’s Board of Trustees meeting. “We must hold South Orange to a high standard in terms of the protections guaranteed in the resolution,” the email read. “We must continue to support South Orange in its efforts to join the hundreds of sanctuary cities across the country.”
At the Feb. 6 Legal and Personnel Committee meeting, some members of the community also expressed reservations about the adoption of such a resolution, according to reports received by Village Green. As in Maplewood, some community members have expressed concern that such a resolution could impact federal funding to the town and the school district while not providing added protections to immigrants.
On February 6, Village President Collum posted on her Facebook page that “the Village needed to do its due diligence in understanding the legal issues, consult with professionals in immigration, review our own NJ Attorney General Guidelines, evaluate our current practices both with respect to municipal services and Standard Operating Procedures within our South Orange Police Department, understand exactly what President Trump’s Executive Order really means (and the constitutionality of it and prior Supreme Court rulings), evaluate federal funds that have been dispersed to the township and to the Board of Education and also solicit community input.”
Collum continued, “Any decision we make shouldn’t be a knee jerk reaction but entail a thoughtful discussion/debate and involve all stakeholders that wish to be heard. Making sure everyone understands all the items listed above is critical and I hope all of our residents can appreciate the governmental process of listening, learning, questioning, evaluating, and deciding. Anything less would be a disservice to our community.”